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Thursday, Sep. 1, 2011

LISTENING POST

Miila and the Geeks "New Age"


Special to The Japan Times

Miila and the Geeks show a great aptitude for the past on their debut album "New Age." The generally fuzzy atmosphere of the whole record evokes 1960s garage rock, with lead singer Moe Wadaka's sinisterly sexy vocals conjuring up early PJ Harvey. The inclusion of a mind-of-its-own saxophone winds up linking the group to the jittery no-wave movement. But this Tokyo trio rise above just being a history textbook, blending bits and pieces of yesteryear together into a sound all their own to create one of the best Japanese albums of 2011.

News photo

Miila and the Geeks succeed via brute minimalism. Wadaka handles vocals and guitar, joined by Kaoru Ajima on drums and Ryota Komori on sax, but these guys know how to get the most out of their instruments. Ajima pounds his kit like an excited toddler, but you'll pick up on simple patterns that add a muscular drive, especially to the title track and early standout, "Want." Komori, on the other hand, seems to thrive on being unpredictable. He's let off the leash for most tracks on "New Age," gracing the album with a sense of chaos.

Wadaka's guitar acts as a way to propel the album along, most notably on grimy highlight "Cigarette and Water" but also through the chug-a-lug of "Trouble." Her voice mostly exists somewhere between a come-on and stony stoicism, but she's also prone to wonky flights like when she recites the alphabet on "Alphabed."

Miila and the Geeks take familiar concepts and rough them up a little, and that is what makes "New Age" such a triumph. They've kept an eye on the past only so they could muck it up. In doing so, they can call the end result something all their own.

Miila and the Geeks play the "New Age" release party at Club Asia in Shibuya, Tokyo, on Sept. 20. (7 p.m.; ¥2,000 in advance). For details, visit asia.iflyer.jp/venue/flyer/88783.

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