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Thursday, July 12, 2012

LISTENING POST

Nile Long "Nile Long"


For the last few years, Tokyo's The Brixton Academy was one of the best outfits in the city's independent live-music scene. The band drew from the music of the 1980s, trying to capture the sound of another generation. By taking from the '80s, the group fitted in very well with the bands of the '00s, such as Cut Copy and LCD Soundsystem. But unlike some other Japanese acts copping moves from the synth-friendly decade, The Brixton Academy stood out thanks to the vocals of singer Naoto, which kind of sounded like a pained Kermit The Frog but still retained a deep sincerity — a trait that gets lost in a lot of the '80s-aping music of today. A few months ago, the five-piece became a quartet after their drummer left, and it changed its name to Nile Long. But its self-titled debut EP doesn't contain any major sonic shifts. Instead, it's basically three new songs by The Brixton Academy and three remixes showing off the band's strengths.

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The three proper Nile Long tracks here feature all the hallmarks of The Brixton Academy — squiggly synths, a drum machine, a little bit of guitar and Naoto's earnest singing. They're more focused on the dancefloor though — "Let Your Body Groove" struts ahead, powered by keyboard playing reminiscent of the theme from the film "Beverly Hills Cop." Lyrics are the highlight on "Once In The Moonlight," lines such as "Come back to me/I know/I never reach for the sky" try to tug at the listener's heart, while the music aims for the feet . Only lead single "See Your Eyes (Through The Night)" sounds off by clamping the vocals down and providing factory-precise delivery. That's usually a good thing, but without the messy emotional edge that's found on the other two numbers, the band loses the vulnerability that makes it stand out from its peers.

The three remixes included on "Nile Long" exploit the group's best strength, their vocals, resulting in remixes that are almost as strong as the originals. Tokyo's Canopies and Drapes takes the repetition of "See Your Eyes" and makes it unsettling on her rework, which goes heavy on the vocal-manipulation. Afrobell's take on "Once In The Moonlight" is a slab of minimalist house that puts the gooey vocals upfront, and Nagoya's Orland comes closest to sounding like Nile Long (they also love fat bursts of synth). However, their version of "Let Your Body Groove" is more apt for chilling out than hitting the dancefloor. A rose by any other name smells just as sweet, and this band by any other name can still nail a beat.


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