It must be hard being Do As Infinity.
With all that pressure to maintain its chart-topping track record, it would be easy to stick with what’s worked before — despite possessing a penchant for juggling three disparate forms of music (jazz, pop, rock).
And yet, what to make of “Koosooryodan”, the opening track to the band’s fourth album, True Song?
The song opens with an minimalist motif more akin to a Philip Glass movie score. After singer Van Tomiko delivers the opening verse and chorus, guitarist Owatari Ryo and an army of session musicians crash in, pounding at the motif like a jackhammer. The straight beats on the snare drum feel like punches to the head.
All the while, an overdubbed Van sings a nice melody, unaffected by the flurry of activity serving as a backdrop.
To date, it’s the most adventurous song Do As Infinity has ever written. Noisy, stubborn, loud — if it weren’t so heavily orchestrated, it might comes across as punk. (Post-punk at the most.)
If Do As Infinity continued in this vein with the rest of True Song, it would have alienated a lot of the band’s less tolerant fans.
Do As Infinity does not end up alienating its less tolerant fans.
Immediately after “Koosooryodan”, True Song launches into “under the sun”, the first pre-release single for the album. And the band continues its three-genre juggling act.
Do As Infinity has learned the perils of its eclecticism.
The band’s second album, New World, attempted to push the boundaries of its influences to scattered effect. For its third album, Deep Forest, the duo (with absent member Nagai Dao still credited) concentrated on the pop third of its equation.
True Song is clearly the band’s “rock” record.
Power chords takes up the most sonic real estate on such tracks as “Grateful Journey” (think “Summer Days”), “One or Eight” (think “135”), or “Ai no Uta” (think “Toshikari Naru Mama ni”).
“Perfect Lady” hints at bit of country with a slide acoustic guitar lick, while “under the sun” features a guitar intro vaguely reminiscent of T.Rex.
Van still delivers catchy melodies like nobody’s business, but more often than not, Ryo is behind her, chugging away on his muted strings.
That’s not to say jazz and pop get the shaft. “Shinjitsu no Shi”, the most beautiful and exotic track on the disc, incorporates traditional Chinese instruments into its dramatic orchestral flourishes. “sense of life” combines ringing acoustic guitars with a hip-hop beat, while “Wadachi” harkens to Deep Forest’s “Tsubasa no Keikaku”.
With the break-neck pace of Japan’s pop industry, it’s impressive to find a band that can keep itself sounding fresh on each album, while still appeasing demands of fickle fans. True Song marks another successful notch in Do As Infinity’s batting record.