Flash Back, Japanese electro-pop duo capsule's tenth album in six years, completes the transformation that began with 2006's Fruits Clipper, from the post-Shibuya-kei sound that established the group's reputation to the harder electro sound that characterized their late-'90s sound, along with the group's main creative force Nakata Yasutaka's work as a producer. Opening with the short instrumental "construction" built around a sequencer pattern seemingly borrowed from Yellow Magic Orchestra's "Cue," Flash Back quickly leaps headlong into the heavy dance beats of the title track before the house-influenced "Eternity" coaxes the album back to poppier climes. It's a relentlessly stylish album throughout, rooted in the fashions and trends of its time, and one of the dangers inherent in the insistent "nowness" of everything that Yasutaka does, is that it leaves open the possibility that capsule's work will date quickly. This is evidenced by the vocoder that runs amok over the melodic "You Are the Reason," which anchors the song to its 2007 release, without the simplistic, beat driven pleasures of more direct, dancefloor-pleasing numbers like "MUSiXXX," or the more more explicitly retro influences and more quirky vocal sounds that allow tracks like "Get Down" to float free of their immediate musical environment and enter a kind of timeless, postmodern musical interzone. Nevertheless, the songwriting on Flash Back shows no sign of letting up, with Yasutaka's production skills moving forward yet again. The result is a consistent album that manages to balance beats and melody in a way that allows capsule to remain at once poppy and accessible, as well as musically one step ahead of their 2007 contemporaries.
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