Concise but expansive

Who says you need synthesizers to make ambient music? A heavily distorted guitar can be every bit as atmospheric as the latest model Korg.

The guys in Walrus aren’t above laying heavy on the overdrive pedals, but like their fellow countryfolk in mono, they can turn buzzsaws into satin.

In fact, think of Walrus as mono with songs — verse-chorus-verse instead of four measures ad nauseum, set over hulking but sublime guitar noise.

Hikari no Kakera, released back in November 2000, is a lot more focused and concise than 1999’s sprawling Seven.

Walrus songs tend to stretch for six minutes at a time, and on Seven, it resulted in a butt-numbing listening experience. The album never seemed like it wanted to end, and after a while, Walrus’ moody, haunting sound struck the same note over and over.

Hikari no Kakera doesn’t fall in the same trap. Songs such as “Exit”, “Iro no Aru Basho e” and “Nemuri” clock under six minutes, and there’s much more variety in tone and mood.

“Tsuki” and “Toneriko” still offer up the slow-tempo atmospherics the band has mastered, but “Spit” rocks out, while “Orange” punctuates its rhythmic drive with a jackhammer riff.

“Iro no Aru Basho e” moves along with the usual power chords, and the title track packs in a lot of activity under a long, flowing melody.

Singer Akitomo has an appealing voice, suitable for the band’s loud but dreamy aesthetic. He and guitarist Atsushi do incredibly Fripp-ish things with their instruments, while drummer Kenroo fills in the gaps like an octopus gone crazy.

Walrus are accomplished songwriters and brilliant sound architects, but even the most avid fan of dark, brooding, loud music might find the band too skilled in pursuing its muse.

Don’t listen to this music if you have clinical depression or if you’re trying to find work in the current job market. (Um. That’s a joke. It’s okay to laugh.)