Ling Tosite Sigure

I'mperfect

(CD - JPU Records #JPU 003)

Review by

That this fifth album from Ling Tosite Sigure went to number three on Japan's Oricon charts speaks volumes to the uniqueness and unpredictability of that country's music market. Had they been formed in the West, the band's extreme albeit melodic blend of post-hardcore and math rock would likely have seen them remain very much a niche proposition, certainly not signed to a major label and marketed as pop music. Much like their previous albums, this record, their first to be made available outside of Japan, is characterized by frantic tempo shifts, jarring stops and starts, and high-pitched male and female call-and-response vocals. Most of the musical content of the songs consists of short, repeating arpeggios and blisteringly fast phrases of dissonant soloing, shrouded in reverb and treated with a battery of effects pedals, which build up upon one another before bursting into haunting and often beautiful minor-key melodies. Ling's genius is not so much in the way they entwine this musicality with shards and screes of noise as in the utterly effortless way they do it. What sounds like a nightmare on paper somehow just works and never sounds forced. The album's title is a clever pun on this duality, and their haunting, cryptic, poignant lyrics simply add to their mystique. It's hard to pick standouts on an album like this, as Ling are defiantly not a singles band, but the churning chorus of "Sitai Miss Me," the airy, ringing spaces of "Filmsick Mystery," and the almost psychedelic interludes of "Monster" are of particular note. Mostly, however, the album all kind of flows together in an unceasing attack that is best experienced in one sitting. The closing track, the cunningly titled "Missing Ling," is probably the most "normal"-sounding track here, with something of a shoegaze feel. Ultimately, Ling are rather like an attention-deficit child who can never sit still; even amidst the calm, chiming expanses of space in "Kimi to Oku," for instance, the drums continue to click and clatter restlessly. The overwhelming density may put some listeners off, but for those willing to invest time in repeat spins, this music pays dividends, eventually coalescing into something at once beautiful and terrible. Ling are not really doing anything new here, but this album is a powerful consolidation of their unique sound and a document of a band operating at the height of its powers -- and light years ahead of most of the competition.

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