Japancakes Belmond/Bliss Out Vol. 19

Simple has never sounded so good. Part Tortoise, part Philip Glass, Belmondo is a dreamy six-track instrumental album that nicely fits into the trustworthy Bliss Out series. Their sound has broadened since their humble beginnings in Athens, GA, where they were known for playing a single chord for 45 minutes at live shows. Under the direction of Eric Berg, Japancakes earned a reputation for their unique approach to the band format, eschewing rehearsals and practicing in favour of focusing on a single note, and allowing things to develop naturally and individually from there; perhaps borrowing an idea from the freeform, late-era sessions of Talk Talk. Having evolved their sound through two previous albums on Kindercore, Berg has expanded his technique to include more melody and instrumentation. By no means though is this a busy-sounding album. Instead, songs are extended through delicate structures that, at times, brush up against contemporary classical compositions. This diversely arranged album features a nice mix of strings, sparse drums and their signature pedal-steel guitar, all interwoven around simple note progressions and tones that are stretched to their limits, especially on the 16-minute "Handguns and Fire Arms.” Belmondo shows incredible range, sinking your spirits with the funeral march sadness of "Theme For A Film,” then lifting them again with "Always Stuck Leaving,” one of the album’s finest moments, especially for fans of the pedal-steel. At times challenging, Belmondo offers something unique to fans of heady, instrumental music: a soul. Provided you have the patience, that is. Japancakes take simple to the extreme and prove that slow-tempo instrumental music can be more than just something to lull you to sleep, it can be inspiring. (Darla)