Erectricmole aren’t just writing songs, they’re creating entire worlds. Houka No Hirune, the young group’s recent debut for the fledgling Flawless World imprint, takes the idea of electro-pop being loud techno-leaning feet movers and inverts it, turning the synths inward to create intimate sonic worlds. Erectricmole give their creations plenty of color and life, beats at the speed of pop helping to elevate this LP into something beyond music to fill a living room. The cutesy album art honestly does hint at the sounds waiting inside – familiar things suddenly rearranged into something different, something fantastical.
Like any newly minted country, Houka No Hirune has it’s fair share of problems. Lasting 50 minutes, Erectricmole end up filling a fair amount of time with meandering atmospherics, especially on the back end. It’s just a little too ambitious to be a great album, and sometimes the sequencing hurts as well. “Ukigumo” shouts out to be the closing number, initially a sonic come-down working as a nice embrace to close out the evening before throwing one more colorful parade near the finish which could have ended Houka on a triumphant note. Instead they tack on the lazy piano number “Yurikago” which sorta just mills about.
The album as a whole suffers from several flaws, but does shine as a collection of Erectricmole’s best ideas buffered by some so-so ambiance. Opener “Tamayura” shows how great the band can do slower, whirling stuff given a chance. The layers of vocals swirl around light synth winds, subtle shifts worked in during the track’s five-minute run to make it not dissolve into a boring slop but rather remain an ever-changing warmth. “Suisou” embraces sparser terrain, letting the vocals thaw out amongst a few bright wisps and clattering Morse-code beeps. Longest-running song “Kouwa” also dabbles in minimalism, but places an even greater emphasis on the voice, at times getting near silent save for some stretched-out singing prone to echo effects. Erectricmole’s more enveloping moments bring to mind the work of Tokyo’s Cokiyu, an electronic artist creating sounds that also tend to wrap the listener up in a warm blanket of of noise. It’s intimate stuff.
Yet the strongest individual track on Houka ends up being the most pop-friendly. “Nekoyanagi” features the same dizzy electronics Erectricmole twist into close-quarters music, but pairs them with a minimal dance beat and, crucially, bouncy singing. It’s nothing complicated, just elements of ever-popular techno-pop slowed down and turned into a very delicate pop song. Not groundbreaking, but the prettiest track on Houka by a mile.
Houka No Hirune isn’t some shit-hot debut bound to launch a micro-genere and become blog fodder. It’s just a splendid 50 minutes of music featuring a few moments of thumb-twiddling and more moments of inspired electronics (and, with “Nekoyanagi,” one of the year’s best fuzzy pop moments). Houka isn’t a place I’d want to live, but I’d definitely visit and keep an eye on what the architect’s have planned.