The Retail Sectors: Foregone Conclusion
Hidden Shoal

We've been fans of Kentaro Togawa's The Retail Sectors the moment we heard the Japanese band's work on Togawa's own label, Symbolic Interaction. How good it is to see, then, Hidden Shoal echoing that sentiment by issuing the mini-album Foregone Conclusion on its own label. Using guitars, bass, drums and electronics, Togawa ever-so-carefully builds his tracks into exquisite instrumental settings where guitars sometimes delicately chime and at other times swarm into buzzing masses. Long-time fans should note that Foregone Conclusion pairs new with previously released material, with five of the seven tracks remixes. For listeners new to the group, on the other hand, it's as good a place as any to start.

Opening the set strongly, “The First Step to End the Life” becomes an irresistibly jubilant romp in remixer Si Begg's hands (in fact, the surging shuffle rhythms almost exude an oom-pah feel) with the charging front-line spearheaded by Togawa's trademark chiming guitar sound. Maps and Diagrams makes two appearances: the brief teaser, “An Introduction to the Decadence,” coats Togawa's elegant guitars in detrital dust and static, while the subsequent “The Decadence” sculpts brooding atmosphere. Headphone Science turns “The Longing Song” into an electronic space anthem that somehow manages to become a delicate waltz, bombastic shuffle, and drunken jig all in the span of five minutes. Easily the most harrowing treatment, Yaporigami's remix of “The Dread” opens in melancholy mode before a brief interjection of noise threatens to drown it, a foretaste of the grotesque, crushing roar that detonates at track's end. Two originals close the set: “Kaze No Owari,” a ruminative and atmospheric moodscape, and “Beauty of the Depression,” which alternates between elegant and bruising episodes, and ensures that no one will come away thinking the group is only about elegant quietude.

February 2008