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Thursday, June 07, 2007

Dok Springs, Jemapur, Hydeout Productions

Yet another uncomfortably hot and humid Japanese summer is almost upon us. Tokyo’s rush hour trains, unpleasant at the best of times, become a sticky, heaving mass of sweating salarymen (don’t get me started on them), knackered looking school kids bent double under the weight of their bags and bemused Northern Europeans wondering what they hell they’re doing living in such a climate. Of course, there are always those enviably cool looking people sitting there, seemingly unaffected by the weather, with barely a bead of sweat on their brows. I want to be like that but I know it’s never going to happen - I was born in Scotland and that’s exactly the kind of weather I was designed for. The best thing I can do is find some music that soothes the soul and cools the boiling blood that makes me want to KILL KILL KILL. Jemapur’s debut album, Dok Springs, is a collection of songs that fits the bill perfectly.

The story goes that 19 year old Shizuoka native Jemapur turned up at the record shop/label in Shibuya owned by Jun Seba (a.k.a Nujabes), armed with a thirty track demo. Impressed with what he heard, Seba cherry-picked the best cuts from the demo and Dok Springs is the result. Perhaps unsurprisingly this album treads a lot of similar ground to Nujabes releases such as Metaphorical Music and Modal Soul, as well as the first Hydeout productions compilation (the imaginatively titled First Compilation. If none of that means anything to you, but you’re a fan of acts like D.J Shadow and his Mo’ Wax label mates, or better known Japanese artists such as Kemuri or D.J Krush, you’d do well to seek out this album.

The majority of the tracks on the album are instrumentals, and they are far more satisfying than the numbers where guest vocalists add their two bits. Vocal tracks such as ‘Light to Light (Remix of Antennae) are by no means bad, but the vocals don’t really add anything to Jemapur’s already atmospheric sound. There’s no moment of jaw-dropping beauty or audacity to equal Nujabes ‘ordinary joe’ from his Modal Soul album, in which Terry Callier reprises his Stax classic over a backing track of 21st century soul that could be straight outta Cafe del Mar. This isn’t a problem however, given the strength and depth of songs like ‘Self Improvisation’, with its blend of skittering jazz beats, unidentifiable wheezes and coughs, and sudden unexpected changes of tempo.

I’m sure this album would also make the perfect backdrop to a few chilled beers out on the porch or in the garden as the sun sets on a summer’s day. Maybe that or later on in the evening when the lights have been dimmed and the conversation is more hushed. Those situations have got more chance of being what Jemapur had in mind when he made the record, rather than it being adopted by a desperate commuter as a way of avoiding deportation. Either way, it’s all good. Let the good times, not the salaryman heads, roll.