No big themes

Supercar didn’t mess around when it dove head-long into electronica.

The band’s first forray into club beats resulted in the dramatic Futurama, an album that approximated the feel of an all-night mix but ended up being a rock epic instead.

Like most great albums, it set up some pretty unreasonable expectations for a sequel.

Highvision, Supercar’s follow-up to Futurama, continues the band’s seamless marriage of synthetic beats and huge rock guitars, but this time around, the quartet has scaled back.

The album feels like an album, not a CD-length mix, nor a concept piece. Two-second gaps, the mark of a work not beholden to an Overriding Concept, are in great supply on Highvision.

This less ambitious approach seems almost anti-climactic at first, but after repeated listenings, it turns out to be a smarter move. By freeing the songs from interludes and segues, Supercar gives each track its own identity.

“Storywriter” is a straight-on rock song with live drums, buzzing guitars and Nakamura Koji’s soothing croon. It would have been difficult tying that track in with “Warning Bell”, a non-descript techno song that precedes it, or “Aoharu Youth”, a mellow, ethereal track that follows.

On the whole, Highvision feels less cluttered than Futurama. Unlike the heavy-handed arrangements of “Fairway” or “White Surf Style 5”, tracks such as “Otogi Nation” and “Starline” breathe in the spaces not occupied by lots of strange effects.

At the same time, there’s something of a live component seemingly missing from Highvision. Drummer Tozawa Kodai feels buried, if not altogether lost, on “Warning Bell” and “Yumegiwa Last Boy”. Even with the drum machines, his presence felt more prominent on Futurama.

Supercar does leave some room for experiments. A chipmunk-voiced Furukawa Miki punctuates the drum ‘n’ bass ambience of “I” (no relation to the recently-released Buffalo Daughter album of the same title.)

“Strobolights” gets remixed for the album, those analog arpeggios that assaulted listeners on the single version are reigned in till midway through the song.

Although it’s hard not to cast Highvision in terms of Futurama, ultimately Highvision stands on its own. Its seemingly humble ambitions are no less tuneful or appealing than its predecessor.

Even the album’s relatively short length — 48 minutes — isn’t too much of a bother. Probably most important is the fact Supercar has managed to prove yet again that guitars and club beats go well together.