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Thursday, Oct. 4, 2012


Sawagi "Punch Games"

Special to The Japan Times

If you know Sawagi as just another band that's playing off Daft Punk's style, you're in for a shock with its debut LP, "Punch Games". With a sound differing from earlier EP "hi hop," it seems the four-piece act has finally found its voice.

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Formed in Osaka in 2003, Sawagi is also known on the live circuit by its former name, Karakuri. The band says it makes dance music with elements of rock, jazz, funk and electro. Sawagi or Karakuri, rock or jazz or funk, there's a lot of indecision going on here. What the heck, I'm going to add to the indecision even more by throwing in a nod to classical song structures.

Many of the tracks on "Punch Games," especially the song "Kepra," are composed in a way that's similar to the form for a sonata. The album seems to be divided sonically into four parts, like the movements that are characteristic to classical music, turning "Punch Games" into a symphony of sorts. Though this isn't too clear on first listen because the genres jump around so much.

There's a video-game-style electronica vibe on opener "HaNoi," pianos ring out on "Topology," and the band goes hard on "Panic," whose heavy guitars sound like they could have been ripped from a Metallica tune.

In the third quarter of the album, composition starts to become clearer, especially with the jazzy piano on "Yellow." The LP's closers, "polgon" and "kyakkya," borrow from the style of late 1980s/early '90s Italo-house music and they — as with most of the album — keep the mood pretty positive throughout.

While all this seems scattered, it starts to make sense if you think of classical-music structures meant to tell a full story. Comparing "Punch Games" with the work of composer Joseph Haydn ends up being more rewarding than searching for modern reference points like Daft Punk. Then again, Daft Punk's 2001 album "Discovery" soundtracked an anime film. ... Hey, I think we have an idea for Sawagi's second full-length.

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