Tuesday, August 7, 2012

JAM DESHO: World's End Girlfriend - Ending Story (VBR-004RE)

By Steve Jones

(JAM Desho is our feature shedding light on the best music from the Far East. We continue to highlight Virgin Babylon Records today with the album Ending Story by World's End Girlfriend.)

Katsuhiko Maeda's World's End Girlfriend project has been around for over a decade. After contributing a few songs to a few compilations, and in the wake of his Sky Short Story EP, Maeda released his debut record, Ending Story, in October of 2000. It was an obscure album by an obscure musician, released on a now defunct label, and it was, I imagine, quickly forgotten. It wasn't until the latter half of the decade, when WEG's albums The Lie Lay Land and Hurtbreak Wonderland made rounds on the internet, that serious interest was directed onto his past work. Ending Story was hard to track down and nearly impossible to buy, so it was not without some fanfare that Virgin Babylon Records announced their fourth record to be a reissue of the elusive LP.

What could have amounted to no more than a curiosity for World's End Girlfriend fans is actually a strong record in its own right and deserving of a reissue and the exposure which comes with it. Listeners hoping for more post-rock catharsis as on the level of tracks like "Scorpius Circus" may be disappointed by Ending Story's focus on more bluntly electronic sounds (still check out "Cruel Girl's Beauty," though), but its amalgam of IDM, glitch, ambient, voice samples, and other sounds should disappoint no one hoping to hear WEG's trademark inventiveness. Its palette and scope may not be as rich as his later efforts, but there's a lot of charm and humor and sadness and beauty about his early music

The first two tracks alone are a wonderful microcosm of what the album has to offer. "Listening You" is an exceedingly chill track driven by a simple yet hypnotic piano and backed by sustained synths and a wide assortment of other sounds and styles. As with most WEG songs, it's difficult to deconstruct it into words, but there is something profoundly nostalgic about it, as with a Boards of Canada track. "Magical Romantic Freestyle," on the other hand, is cartoony and chaotic, starting with a sample (or cut of samples) of children's playground games before turning it into a deliciously sinister carnival of sounds. Astute listeners and fans may also be able to detect a few samples on the album which Maeda reuses in his other songs.

I want to make special mention of the title track (and longest track) "Ending Story," which, while post-rock-like with its drums and guitars, builds in a deliciously non-post-rock fashion. opting instead for a cacophonous collage of blips and whirls, vox and wailing. It's last few minutes call to mind some of Eno's more heavenly compositions, and I love how it ends with a gasp.

While many of its sounds may strike listeners as a bit antiquated today (and I actually like its slightly faded colors), Ending Story is still a marvelous display of World's End Girlfriend's evocative composition and adept arrangement skills. It's one of his more relaxing albums, but it is never boring, and, as with the rest of his music, there is always more of the songs for you to hear.

Stream it through August 18th below via Virgin Babylon Records' Bandcamp, and be sure to tune in next week for part 5 of our VBR retrospective.

(Steve Jones thinks it's like a never-ending story with you. Fellow WEG fanboys can gush along with him on his Twitter @vestenet.)

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