I don’t know why exactly, but I feel this band has the best name in the world. Thankfully, that’s not the only reason I have for writing about them. Or should I say him, given that it’s a one-man-project which employs multiple musicians for live shows. World’s End Girlfriend is the brain child of Katsuhiko Maeda, a child prodigy who at the age of twelve was already composing songs on keyboards, guitars and computers. He’s all grown up now and has reportedly written over six hundred songs, creating a sort of music which slyly avoids any straight-forward classification.
This album is so terribly difficult to approach with the tools given to me by any previous musical experience… It’s such a tremendously protean mix of references and genres that I can’t find any one dominant to start from – the music is simply too slippery, too restless. Spanning from circus music, to post-rock drones, to lush violins reminiscent of romantic classical music, break beat percussion, industrial sound effect, theatrical pacing, vocal samples taken from films, acoustic guitar tunes akin to the most harmless, sunny folk and bass lines of unrelenting ferocity, this album is a monumental confusion engine which would normally tear itself apart, but somehow, supernaturally, it doesn’t. Some laws still function, some sense is still there to be found and the devil is in the details.
The Lie Lay Land is an album of mesmerizing patience. It was constructed with much care and much consideration, I think that is obvious, and it demands patience of the listener as well. Like all good puzzles, it requires dedication to solve, but also presents a worthwhile challenge. The oddity is that I couldn’t precisely single out any passage in any song to illustrate what I’m trying to say. The effect this music may or may not have on the listener boils down to the most minute details embedded in the songs. It’s not that a certain stretch of rhythm is particularly remarkable, it’s the little cracks that show up, expertly placed and nurtured, the tiny details which warp any sort of predictable, comfortable structure you might expect the song to settle into. And what’s more, I’m not even certain “songs” is the right word for what this record has to offer. My impression is that World’s End Girlfriend treats music in a singularly visual way. Listening to this I get flashes of color, textures superimposing and alternating, depth, all translated into sound. It’s not synesthesia I’m talking about here, it’s the feeling that this music is a sort of slowing down of light to the speed of sound. Tricky business to absorb and even trickier to put into words (which is, after all, just another form of translating, isn’t it?).
I think World’s End Girlfriend takes the cake when it comes to exploring the uncanny valley in music. No matter how much I love this art form, how fresh it seems to me every single day, I can’t help but feel there are some tried and true tricks musicians often resort to in order to induce a certain mood. Surely, it’s the same in all artistic mediums. Take for example the fact that a minor scale will almost always provoke a feeling of melancholy, or danger, something ominous or simply fragile and ephemeral. Major scales are usually a lot more solar. There are many more such little feats of magic one can get attuned to in time and with a lot of practice and patience for devouring all sorts of music. In this context, I find myself able to realize why certain tunes have a certain effect, but not when it comes to The Lie Lay Land. This is music built in a way which constantly flirts with chaos, defying these old, well-worn rules much more often than respecting them. Perhaps one of the songs I feel the need to showcase from this album can prove this whole theory wrong, since it’s probably one of the more structured, simple tunes on the record, but this is the only way I can find to explain that feeling of awkward confusion and delight when listening to World’s End Girlfriend. I turn to dreams yet again to gain some perspective – they are visual, lush affairs, cinematic or otherwise, colorful or eerily desaturated, but in the end, their defining trait is the failing of everyday logic which does not simply disappear, but gets replaced by another, convoluted and mysterious set of rules. The tantalizing aspect of this is that one rarely gets to spend enough time in a dream to fully glimpse this new architecture. This fracture in perception and sense is what I experience while confronted with The Lie Lay Land.
What more can I say? It’s tricky, fascinating and hypnotic! Give it a try. I chose the live version of the second track because otherwise I really get the feeling the music sounds a bit too alien for comfort. Seeing it played live, by humans, softens it slightly.