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noam: overdramatic
Symbolic Interaction

Little information is included in Noam's Overdramatic, so little that one would have no idea that it's the latest project by Kentaro Togawa, the Japan-based guitarist, composer, and label manager who's previously released material under The Retail Sectors and Hopeless Local Marching Band aliases, unless one were informed otherwise. The release's minimal presentation sees a CD and colour postcard housed within a slim cardboard box and the band name and album title (track titles absent) displayed on a colour band affixed to the case.

Togawa can be a bit of a shadowy figure—few bio-related details are available and photos are equally scarce—but our previous dealings with him hint that when he describes Overdramatic as the “first album by my new band,” it's more likely the first album under the Noam name by Togawa operating in his customary one-man band capacity. Regardless, anyone who's been longing for a resurrection of The Retail Sectors will find much to like about the new project; in fact, it wouldn't be pushing it too far to say that had Togawa issued Overdramatic as a Retail Sectors release, few devotees would have raised eyebrows, even if they would have taken note of the new material's more expansive vision and broadened stylistic scope.

The project's guitar-based sound is evident from the first moment, even if the opening section of “Shaky Step” is bucolic, even pastoral, in spirit. Yet while the jangle of Togawa's guitar picking conjures the image of the peaceful countryside, one expects that a storm is coming, and, true to form, said storm sweeps in at about the four-minute mark, obliterating everything in its path with anthemic six-strings and martial drumming. Changes in style and sonic character occur with clockwork regularity: fuzz-drenched guitar smolder lends “Rosy Retirement” a grimy shoegaze feel; the strumming guitars in the ultra-mournful “Process of Decay,” on the other hand, tell the saddest of stories during the track's opening five minutes. As arresting as such moves are, they pale in comparison to the album's biggest surprise: the chamber classical character that the lilting piano-and-glockenspiel combination brings to “Moderate Backlash.”

In some ways, Overdramatic adheres to post-rock conventions in featuring repeated build-ups and climaxes, but Togawa also works in a surprise or two along the way to keep things fresh. In “Heartbreaking Attempt,” one of the album's stronger cuts, he builds on its downtempo head-nod with a chiming guitar melody, strips the arrangement down for a simple bass-and-drum spotlight, and then builds it up again until a detonation occurs that's so massive it feels like one's head's being taken off. The album's anything but a one-note assault, however, as moments of wistful delicacy (“Drowsy State” a particularly beautiful example) also are woven into its seventy-minute frame a number of times, even if they're counterbalanced by episodes of axe shredding.

April 2016