Sgt. - Perception of Causality 2005
|The Silent Ballet :|
Sgt. is such a great band, I'm here to claim they're one of two things: either the best band out of Japan that you aren't listening to, or the best band out of Japan that you are listening to. Think Mono is the best Japan has to offer? Think again! Think World's End Girlfriend is the most cutting edge artist that side of the pacific? Wrong! Think you've got an obscure band hiding in your pocket to trump? Sgt. is playing the all foil here. Please don't bother to play again; stay home and wipe those tears.
Perception of Causality was released just last year, but it's one of the most invigorating CDs to come along in a long time. As a quartet, Sgt. really squeezes the most diversity possible out of their music while still avoiding standard post-rock cliches. Point in case, "銀河の車窓から 　試聴" looks to be a lumbering work of art. At a staggering thirteen minutes, we're expecting the worst -- some sort of eits/gybe/mogwai worship. But nay, Sgt. confuses us by having only one guitarist, which is clearly not capable of producing a tsunami of sound by himself. Backed by a bass, violin, and drums, we question Sgt.'s physical power, the clutch for many a post-rock fans. It's then refreshing that "銀河の車窓から 　試聴" leaves the explosives at home and instead takes a linear trajectory to the climax. As usual, we witness some superb drumming, coupled with clever song-writing and all too apt shadowing of instrumentation. Violin takes the lead often, leaving the guitar to provide the highlights (instead of vise versa), and at times exchanges between the two give the track a playful air. The fact that the violin is often in the top of the mix explains the track's downplayed intensity -- violins can only get so loud, and we're especially thankful that it's not swallowed by 3 guitars fighting like it's the end of the world. By the track's end the guitarist finally begins to lash out, however even then he's still unable to push the track over the red line and the violin stays the main attraction.
"春風" (trans: Spring Breeze) detours through a more experimental routes. What starts in a haze of guitar ambience and piano is quickly joined by the violin and led into a soft drone. Electronic bleeps puncture the surface, and shortly the drone gives way to the violin once more, erasing the guitar's presence all together and now uniting with a xylophone. At over 7 minutes, it's rather astonishing that what is essentially an interlude can be pushed so far outside the boundaries.
The fourth track is the shortest on the CD, but also the most intense. "moewe" starts off innocently enough, again with violin leading and others providing a nice background. Around the 2:30 mark, guitar and violin begin to meld into one, as high-pitched effects push the guitar to new heights. From here on out Sgt. puts on a new face. The guitarist pushes the violin to its limits, gradually increasing in ferocity until it's too much. We segue into a violin-less segment and a series of rusty riffs are launched, which only provokes the now agitated violin back into the mix to show us what it's really made of. This five minute track shows Sgt. can still pack a punch when it wants, but has no real intention of falling back on tried and true formulas for the majority of its work.
We end with "...................", another long track. Sgt. again gives us the unexpected, throwing in avant-garde influences out from nowhere and coupling it with jazz and post-rock sounds. We see the emergence of a saxophone, four million false stops, more styles of guitar playing than I can count, and what should be a standing ovation from the listener. It doesn't get much better than this. Sgt. appeals lies not in their ability to do well what everyone else does, but rather, to show how beneficial thinking outside the box can be.
For people who thought Yndi Halda sounded pretty good but were overly derivative. For those who think Gregor Samsa was pretty but lacked energy. For those currently infatuated with the unorthodox sounds of Neil on Impression, Sweek, or Magyar Posse, or would like to see them all blended up, transported to Japan, and boiled down to a quartet. Sgt. is a band you will be hearing about in the future, get used to the name now