Everytime I think I’m about to give up on instrumental post-rock, and leave it to all of the Mogwai/Godspeed aficionados, something comes along that sparks my interest once more and makes me think that maybe there’s still some life left in the genre after all. This time around, it was hearing a track by Anoice, a six-piece hailing from Tokyo, Japan. The track was “Liange,” and I think I can say, without hyperbole, that it was (and is) one of the most beautiful things I’ve heard in months.
What’s even more impressive is that Anoice has only be around since 2004, and their first album, Remmings (“Liange” is taken from this album) only came out a month ago. In other words, they’re a pretty young group. But their music has a definite maturity about it that belies their relative newness. And it probably doesn’t hurt that the band lists Rachmaninoff, Debussy, and Bach as influences, right alongside Radiohead and Mogwai.
“Liange” starts off sparsely enough, with a simple, forlorn cascade of trilling piano notes. A viola strikes up a vaguely Asian melody, and the song slowly begins to unfold (there’s really no other way to describe the track’s progression). Other instruments such as guitar and mandolin come drifting through, making their presence known almost shyly, not wanting to disturb what’s already occurring even as they add yet another layer of beauty onto the piece.
It’s rather amazing the song simply doesn’t collapse in on it itself, that it never becomes saccharine and precocious. Instead, it continues to hang there, innocent and pure, until closing with a lovely little dénouement that leaves you aching for just a bit more. That, or shivering from goosebumps at what you’ve just heard. Probably both.
“Liange” has as much in common with Yoko Kanno and Joe Hisaishi as it does Sigur Rós (I’m actually reminded of the first time I heard Ágætis Byrjun), and it sets a high bar for the rest of the album to aim for. Unfortunately, the rest of Remmings lives in “Liange“ ‘s shadow, even though the other songs are solid enough in their own right.
“Asprin Music” has an exotic, Middle-Eastern bent to it, with the throbbing bassline and droning strings; “Kyoto” has the same sort of theatrical stateliness you can hear in the Rachel’s; and “Track 7” (one of several unnammed tracks on the album) is a delicate mix of acoustic guitar and crystalline synth tones.
But “Liange” is undoubtedly the clear stand-out, and the surest sign that Anoice definitely have that special something that hints at bigger, better things to come.
But what is that “special something”? I think it’s the aforementioned maturity that one senses in their music. Anoice’s music develops at a deliberate and careful pace, composed with a tremendous eye that ensures the little details (be it a short piano riff, a soaring guitar note, or a sudden mandolin flutter) don’t get lost or overlooked. Each of the six musicians are given space to shine in their own way and contribute their own unique voice to the music, and yet they can all come together when necessary without tripping things up. That sort of patience and understatement is quite welcome in a genre prone to apocalypse-sized bombast and pretense.
Of course, only time and subsequent releases will tell. But every time I listen to “Liange” and its graceful, heartbreaking progression from beauty to beauty, I find myself encouraged. And grateful.
And if that’s not reason enough to hope, I don’t know what is.