Lounge at the Chimney Pavilion
offers an exceptionally well-composed blend of downbeat lounge, J-pop and syrupy '70s AM radio heaven. The record is retro-style spacy -- as pleasant like fellow Japanese act Pizzicato Five, with a like-minded fondness for pure, simple fun.
The Tokyo-based duo's name, which is taken from Brazilian pop star Gilberto Gil's "Cerebro Electronico", is somewhat misleading, given Lounge at the Chimney Pavilion's generally organic sound. Samples, synths and beats play an even-handed role alongside acoustic and electric guitars and superlative-sounding bass. The breezy vocals, delivered exclusively in Japanese, don't step too close to the front of the mix -- and that mix is dense enough that you'll spend your first few listens simply analyzing the tracks.
Fumiyuki Sato and Tomoyuki Kawamori create intricate compositions without being overly intellectual, and employ a broad palette of sounds to warm and blissed-out effect. Of particular note is "Palmiers", which, at around the three minute mark, touts the best fuzz bass since Beck's "Diamond Bollocks". Sato pairs the bass with a tinkling piano line and strummed electric guitar to striking effect, creating the album's biggest hook. The vibrato guitar on "Piccioni's Dishes", which snuggles up with "Good Vibrations"-style synth and flows into a gigantic snare-driven beat, is another inspired production choice.
References to other retro vibe-lovers abound. The end of "Starfish" and beginning of the following cut, "Piccioni's Dishes", are reminiscent of Stereolab, and "Bossa Nova", which boasts funky envelope-filtered bass and lacerating Stevie Wonder organ, wouldn't be out of place on Sean Lennon's Into the Sun. The end of "Banana Boat Beach", meanwhile, sounds like vintage The Sea and Cake.
Listeners curious about the Japanese music scene will be pretty pleased with Lounge at the Chimney Pavilion, as will just about anybody with an appreciation for sugary pop; Electronico dishes feel-good tunes that few people will find anything to quibble about. It's party music for those turned off by the snot-factor of Andrew W.K. and his ilk -- so put the disc in the tray and invite your peeps over for some cooling out.