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Friday, Dec. 4, 2009

LISTENING POST

CD REVIEW

PanicSmile "A Girl Supernova"


Girl Supernova" is the seventh full-length studio effort from Tokyo-based underground stalwarts PanicSmile. Founded in Fukuoka in the early 1990s, the seminal quartet share 14 new tracks filled with the off-kilter art punk that has established them a small global following and earned them opening slots for indie darlings Deerhoof and no wave innovators James Chance & The Contortions.

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Recorded by A×S×E, the guitarist for Japanese progressive- jazz act Natsumen and PanicSmile's producer since 2002's "Grasshoppers Sun," the disc opens with 15 seconds of distorted lo-fi mucking around under the apt name of "Introduction" prior to diving into the fantastic "North of Border." Hajime Yoshida spits out his vocals over dense math-rock rhythms that suddenly shift into bluesy terrains. A short-lived guitar solo from American expat Jason Shalton briefly re-directs the song to its angular beginnings before the band go off on a cool, Bohemian bass and flute-driven detour that morphs into a noisy ending. Much more restrained, the quirky, jazzy "Girls on Floor 1" is equally strong while the bulk of the title track has all members seemingly doing their own thing with the different experimental sounds all fitting together remarkably well. The nearly nine minute "Siren" starts off poppy but builds into a psych-tinged, abstract romp that fades into a field recording of people chattering and a woman singing beautifully in the distance.

Although its countless musical twists may make it challenging for some to digest the entire album in one listen, "A Girl Supernova" shows that as PanicSmile edge toward their two-decade anniversary, they are still in the midst of their creative prime.


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