Meeting point

If there were a drawback to Konishi Yasuhara’s sample-crazy approach, it would be the claustrophobia of his thick arrangements. Pizzicato Five would oftentimes come across as manic — Nomiya Maki’s smooth voice the only element to reign in the chaos.

Comparing i-dep to Pizzicato Five is superficial at best, but Nakamura Hiroshi shares with Konishi a keen ability to cut up timbres and snippets of motifs, then piece them back together into a pleasing whole.

But where P5 was kitsch and excess, i-dep, Nakamura’s jazz-techo ensemble, is all about cool delivery and exotic climes.

Meeting Point, i-dep’s debut mini-album, combines deep rhythms, creative samples and live instruments into a seamless blend of dance floor beats and human warmth.

This album isn’t a robotic four-on-the-floor exercise, nor is it a slavish replica of bossa nova, a genre curiously popular in Japan. Rather, Meeting Point brings the best of both genres together.

Guitarist Imura Tatsuya does an incredible job of plucking out complex melodies and keeping up with the drum machines and synthesizers. On “Good Water”, he’s placed subtly in the mix, but the virtuosity of his playing drives the song.

On “Tell Me More” and “Rustlica”, his presence adds a bit of humanity to the subtle but complex layers of samples.

But the real stars of the album are the band’s skillful arrangements. The 7-minute “Rustlica” has enough going on to keep a listener engaged for a long duration.

“Two (M.P. version)” is a fantasia of hooks, wonderfully orchestrated and danceable without sacrificing substance for rhythm. The album ends with “Amore”, featuring g-ton from nobodyknows+, a charming romp over Latin rhythms.

Although the album itself is primarily a studio vehicle, the music translate incredibly well live, as i-dep’s showcase at SXSW 2005 clearly demonstrates. It would be wrong not to acknowledge Takai Ryoji’s grounding bass work, or George Kano’s precise drumming.

Meeting Point is, simply put, enjoyable. i-dep isn’t alone in mixing bossa nova with techno beats, but the band makes the kind of music appealing to even listeners ambivalent to those genres.