Jaermulk Manhattan: Bruxism

Tokyo-based composer Yoshiaki Tanaka dresses up his Jaermulk Manhattan tracks with samples and effects galore (Kraftwerk's familiar “Boing,” computerized voices, a Daedelus-like croon in “Feeder,” acid-drenched synths) but Bruxism's primary focus is definitely beats. Tanaka, who calls his style “3-step,” merges trip-hop and funk into crisp drum patterns that slam and swing so powerfully they almost hold the listener's attention all by themselves.

Though weakened by an excess of computer-generated voice silliness, “Intro” otherwise impresses with its tight beat crunch, syncopated melody lines, and jazz-funk-hip-hop blend. The mix of smoky woodwinds, vibes, and beats in “McGuffin” could even be christened “Hitchcock acid-funk.” House-flavoured swing propels “Ms. Footscape,” beats shred with old-school thunder in “Who is Yoshiaqui Tanaqua?” and “AFM” and “Pudding Thing” nicely pair loping grooves with acoustic bass swing.

If there's a weakness to the album, it's that the pieces sometimes feel more like jams than full-fledged compositions. Consequently, a longer track like “AFM” can start to feel repetitive halfway through. In general, though, a typical Jaermulk Manhattan track (“McGuffin” and “420,” to name two) is so detail-packed and shape-shifts so relentlessly that the material's groove-based character rarely becomes an issue.

February 2008