Formed in Hakodate, Hokkaido in 2010, andO2’s relative isolation from Japan’s cultural centre of Tokyo has helped them shape a unique sound all their very own. Incorporating elements of emo, post-rock and indie, the band have been a slow burner, releasing music sporadically and sparingly, preferring to keep their fans on tenterhooks as they await new products. Therefore, there’s a sense of anticipation surrounding their first mini-album Take the long way home, it has a certain rarity value, like the Yeti or Loch Ness Monster, an andO2 release is a rare sighting, but all the more precious for it.
After emo’s mainstream success in the 2000’s, an inevitable backlash occurred and the scene became something wholly uncool and associated with depression and self-harm. However, time moves on and with hindsight, the second-wave of emo produced some undeniably good music and it is precisely this aesthetic that andO2 tap. Opening with a vulnerable voice singing against a backdrop of brittle guitars which shine like icicles glistening in the winter sun makes for a tender, brittle introduction and means that when the rest of the band kicks in, it is with some force. It’s a brief and rather stark introduction that gives little indication of the approaching storm. That tempest arrives in the shape of the dense Titan, a song that punctuates its (impenetrable) wall of sonics with huge white spaces, each acting as a foil to highlight and contrast the other, and the result is a song which ululates between the lithe and heavy, light and shade, and the result pulls us in two directions.
It would be interesting to know if andO2 took the title of this mini album from the Supertramp song of the same name, because the title track, Take the long way home shares a similar whimsical nature, a sense of yearning for a specific time and place. As with its namesake, this song skips along to its own rhythm and wraps the vocals up in a tightly woven ball made from taut guitar lines. With each of the five songs inhabiting a unique space, this release is the perfect calling card with each track showcasing a different facet of the band’s repertoire. GreatHunting!!! reminds me very much of the Taiwanese math rock band Elephant Gym; it is full of nifty time changes and unorthodox chord progressions, and spins the listener around until they are quite dizzy. Markedly different each song might be, but this mini-album flows exceptionally well, so much so that the silence which follows the final song zai-zen becomes a gaping chasm. Such is the emotional nature of this record that we form a strong attachment with these songs, and when it stops it feels as if something precious has been taken away.
As I alluded to earlier, Take the long way home. has been a long while in gestation and as a critic I have to ask if that wait was worth it. The answer is a resounding “yes”!
1. 嘘つき太陽 (Liar of the sun)
3. 歩くような速さで (Take the long way home)
The album can be purchased through the label of the band, Divergent Records, on Bandcamp and the major streaming services, only the single can be found. And you can also watch the music video for this track, as linked above.
Online magazine since 2012 and based in the Netherlands. AVO Magazine is a Japan-related entertainment website with information about events in especially in Europe. There is a big focus on Japanese music. Other contents we publish are reports, reviews, informative articles, and interviews. AVO Forum, founded on May 16, 2003, served as the foundation for AVO Magazine.