Space Fruit Vineyard by Japanese Television
16 Apr 2022
If 2022 has been going a bit too smooth and run of the mill for you then allow me to throw you well and truly off the rails. This week saw the release of space cadets Japanese Television's debut album Space Fruit Vineyard. This London four piece spend a lot of their time shooting through the Galaxy encountering the wonders of our Universe but when they do have some time off they record these experiences through the medium of Space Surf music.
Ok, so most of the above is, unsurprisingly, artistic license on my part but the genre of Space Surf is something that Japanese Television do market themselves as and understandably so. Whilst this bands identity is a melting pot of colours and flavours, surf and space rock definately shine out brighter than the rest as heavy influences. It's often characterised by bizarre effects and unexpected instrumentation with heavily reverbed guitar melodies sitting in the foreground.
At 37 minutes Space Fruit Vineyard comes in a little short but with only 10 tracks, all bar 2 are a good enough length to develop character. The opening title track enters with miles of reverb and echo backed by a beckoning drum beat that injects a certain intrigue and anticipation. Although devoid of any vocals the track employs a typical verse - chorus structure that is easy to follow with the busy rhythm of the chorus parts along with its catchier and more identifiable melody. The sound is fairly dense and that may scare off the occasional listener unfortunately. Mosquito Dance Routine, for example, is the first time on the record that, in places, the layers of effects laden guitars end up clouding their own output. Cleverly, this track is followed by Ghoul Rules that has much more defined instrumentation and ever so slightly cleaner production.. mostly.
Around the belly of the album you will find Bruce Willis. Or rather a track titled Bruce Willis. Over the, now characteristic, drum play and guitar sound you will find sporadic laser gun effects from the early seasons of Star Trek. Another memorable chorus which is something Japanese Television seem to do a lot better than many of their space rock contemporaries.
Snake Shake brings a very welcome change with an almost tribal rhythm beneath a simple repeated motif that has an Eastern vibe not previously heard on the record. The depth of the sound thickens heavily until it collapses in to the chorus that begins at such a density that the first second or so is hard to make out at all. The short closing number, Bumble Rumble, borrows that same Eastern sound along with an organ that typifies the choral melody. We are even treated to an electrifying organ solo in the last 30 seconds which is a pretty brazen way to end the record.
Space Fruit Vineyard proves to be successful in its role as a showcase of the Japanese Television sound. After listening to this record a couple of times you will forever recognise a track of theirs as they do have a very distinctive personality and they are spot on to call it Space Surf. Unfortunately, this is also the biggest downside to the album. Although I really like many of the elements that make up these tracks they are simply not varied enough to keep the interest going. I would prefer to have far more defined peaks and troughs in the track listing with even some thoroughly unexpected curve balls to keep me guessing. The individual compositions do have clear structure but these do not vary enough track to track. I love the overall Japanese Television sound though so if they put together a more exciting record in future it may get more spins from me. Take a listen yourself and let me know what you think.