Hopeless Local Marching Band: Repeating Myself
Symbolic Interaction

The creative force behind the Hopeless Local Marching Band wishes to remain nameless, but anyone who's been following Symbolic Interaction the past few years will have little difficulty figuring out who's responsible for the group's superb debut album Repeating Myself. Suffice it to say, if you've cottoned to The Retail Sectors, you'll like the Hopeless Local Marching Band just as much. Both outfits downplay extensive soloing per se, choosing instead to favour intricate arrangements in through-composed pieces that range widely in mood. While tracks rapidly segue between aggressive and delicate moments in both contexts, there are subtle differences between the two acts: while The Retail Sectors leans towards a heavy, electric guitar-fueled attack, the Hopeless Local Marching Band gives piano as much time in the spotlight as guitar. Furthermore, the band name is a bit of a misnomer in that the group, formed in 2010 in the Yamanashi-prefecture of Japan, hardly sounds hopeless and bleak but instead gravitates towards a sound that's often uplifting and jubilant (as exemplified by the jaunty, piano-driven swing of “A Man with a Shabby Suit is in a Weekend Crowd” and the euphoric crush of “The Aspiring Novelist Doesn't Have a Dream”). A prototypical track anchors lead guitar and piano melodies with taut bass-and-drums patterns and is distinguished by guitar voicings that range between raw and molten on the one hand and lyrical and graceful on the other. Waltz and 4/4 tempos appear, often in the same piece, and a downcast track title such as “The Nihilist Faces Forward” is belied by the sing-song shuffle beat that gives the song its sunny character. The seeming ease with which the bass and drums lock in so tightly alongside the guitar and keyboard parts (as happens during the stop-start funk of “The Frantic Girl Looks Down a Street with a Dreamy Look”) is one of the album's recurring pleasures. The penultimate track “The Sandwich Man Seeks for Who He Is” distills all of the group's tendencies into a single setting by alternating between chimingly melodic piano-based passages and brief salvos of scalding guitar blaze.

Sweetening an already satisfying deal is an accompanying remix CD of forty-eight-minute duration that finds many of Symbolic Interaction's roster artists offering their own interpretations of the album's tracks, some versions extreme re-inventions and others hewing comparatively closer to the originals. Funckarma sneaks its trademark beatsmithing into “The Honest Goes Over the Edge” but otherwise brings a restrained makeover treatment to the original. d_rradio, on the other hand, radically recasts “The Sandwich Man Seeks for Who He Is” by smothering it in a vaporous ambient blanket of static and grime and Joseph Auer gives “The Nihilist Faces Forward” a synth-heavy, intergalaxial makeover that severs pretty much every earthbound connection the original might have had. In the hands of Geskia!, “The Old Man Chokes Up with Tears, Thinking he will be Saved Soon” becomes a psychedelic and hyperactive romp, while Melorman transforms “The Aspiring Novelist Doesn't Have a Dream” into an exercise in skittish IDM with a hint of hip-hop flavour. Symbolic Interaction main man Kentaro Togawa powers his “The Forgotten Heroine Sings Song Awkwardly” overhaul with a buzz-saw guitar roar that's reminiscent of the style he brings to The Retail Sectors. On a quieter tip, Maps And Diagrams gives “And the Man Cannot Describe Himself” a bucolic folktronic treatment that brings the remix set to a pastoral close. The two recordings add up to nearly two hours of solid Symbolic Interaction material to help fill the gap until the label's next release, which may not be for a while, given an accompanying press note that indicates that the label is planning on pausing its activities for awhile, with some hint that that might extend all the way into 2013.

February 2011