Kobayashi, just like his fictional employer Keyser Soze, was a ghost. A fictive apparition only visible to those unfortunate enough to warrant his existence, his manifestation as fragile as ceramic mug and as temporary as a paper cup.
Kobayashi, the band however are a distinctly real proposition. Hailing from Croydon, this is their 2nd full length release. What they have created here is an album which knits together genres as diverse as alt-rock, metal, dub-step and jazz into a hard wearing yet comforting sweater; warming the listener while simultaneously providing them with significant and (partially intentional) lessons about suitability.
The main thrust of the album is that of the melodic edge of post rock, with electronic flourishes adorning most tracks. These embellishments providing a tonal depth and texture that is exciting to experience, regardless of the actual success of each individual experiment. This is where Koybayashi have truly succeeded, in having crafted a collection which is as playful as it is sincere and serious. A consistent engagement with the visceral notion of possibility makes each of the complete tracks (there are a few vignettes) a lucid and challenging experience.
Initially I did have reservations about the number of short connecting pieces within the album, but much like the promenade leit-motif within Mussorgskys “Pictures at an Exhibition”, these bagatelles act very much as a palate cleanser between each of the whole songs. Indeed the album is much more cohesive than any of their previous work; taking you on a journey, one moment sonorous and soporific, the next hypnotic and driving.
There is a distinct 'good time' roughness to Matt Searles' voice, lacing the songs with a thoughtful, boozy melancholy. While this may not be to everyone's taste, it provides a sultry and expressive counterpoint to the funky and highly focused riffs.
As fluid and intriguing as they are as a band, for me the genuine stand out performance on the record is that of bassist James Rampton. A compelling and confounding halfway house between Nicky Wire and Larry Graham, his playing has a real sinuous flexibility to it. Blending riff and rhythm together with an unctuousness that distorts aural perception as one style melts into another.
Having seen this band several times in the last year, I have long been a fan of Mark Durhams drumming. And while his playing here displays the dynamism which had initially captured my ear, I found the production on the drums did let him down a little and robbed the songs of some of the punch that they deliver in a live setting. That being said his use of style and syncopation is impressive. At times his partnership with Mr Rampton, filled with shifts in tempo and metre, makes them sound like a relaxed version of Leprous.
The guitar, provided by Alan Stead is delicate and subtle, providing the twin compliments of space and jagged abrasiveness where needed. It is this lack of intrusiveness on his behalf which makes this band so hard to define. Sprinkling their songs with the dessicated essence of the styles they employ without entrenching them in any particular one. This in itself is a double edged sword, but one of the perils that any “non-genre” act is going to have to deal with.
But say what you like about Kobayashi, one could never accuse them of being unoriginal. Indeed they have an uncanny knack of producing surprising choruses which genuinely leap out of the song. A skill which, if there is any justice in the world, should garner them a larger fan-base and greater exposure.
Kobayashi, may I remind you was a ghost, a spectre, a disposable entity. But despite having taken the name of this spirit as their nom-de-plume, the last thing they can be accused of is disposibility.
The Recorder will be available to buy via Kobayashi's Bandcamp site from the beginning of December.
– John Whitmore