If the vitriol and raw energy of punk rock is like a fever dream, then the Tokyo trio Hontatedori — which premiered its U.S. debut, Konata Kanata, two days ago via David Grubb’s Blue Chopsticks imprint — is a wonderful antithesis: absinthe-soaked, doe-eyed, dreamy, and lined with enough crystalline guitars to fill the lonely sea. The new EP, though far from perfect, is a beautiful introduction to the group and its four songs exude a subtle magic that traces its fingers over the art-intentions of the subconscious mind.
Of the band’s three members — frequent soloists Taku Unami, Moe Kamura and Tetuzi Akiyama — I am most familiar with Unami, who’s fresh from another dream-laced LP, a stunningly improvised collaboration with Grubbs, out earlier this year. You can hear Unami’s feathery guitar throughout and, beyond Kamura’s glass-delicate, often breathy or whispery voice, it’s the centerpiece of the recording, with lines that are just complicated enough to pull you in but just reductive enough to speak larger truths.
The opener, ”Planets,” floats more than it advances or unfurls, sort of a morphine-drip Bedhead or For Carnation without the rhythm section or hints of math-rock. But the song that really steals the show is the second track, the excellent ”Iron Fence,” which elicits images more of jazz-pop clouds or cold psychedelia more than iron. The guitar line is almost buttery-sweet but there’s an underlying dissonance in the quieter moments that will lead listeners to reconsider the songwriters’ intents. If you deem ”Horology of the Surf,” the third track, as skeletal (and, for the most part, it surely is), then the closer, simply titled ”A Boy,” is almost without bones entirely — at nearly seven minutes, the landscape is pretty barren. The recording on the last track is incredibly atmospheric, kudos on the tenderness there, but it’s easy to get lost as you wander to the end of the recording.
A recording like this surely firms up the reputation of Blue Chopsticks as a serious label for serious music — it is of Grubbs as much as it is Grubbsian, compared to, say, Dexter’s Cigar, which Grubbs ran with former Gastr-mate Jim O’Rourke. Someone should but that man a drink for bringing music as tender and oddly complex as Konata Kanata state-side.