making rainy day, futuristic dreams into music

After After Hours (World Domination)
Sugar Plant

By Bob Bahr

The music of Sugar Plant suggests the future, a future that's clean, sparse, and aggressively calming. It's a perfectly visualized dream.

The dream sketched by this Japanese duo has a psychedelic finish to it, and although the keyboards and ambient feel of After After Hours seems machine-like at times, the breathy vocals and hypnotic guitar sounds root it firmly in the organic. The suggestion is that even in a technological future, humankind's nature will inject more than enough warmth and creativity into life and art.

This album is a slight departure for Sugar Plant; they moved away from their noisier, catchier non-song approach to create gentle music on After After Hours designed for late-night unwinding. After you've visited the rock 'n' roll bars or graced the dance clubs, this is the soundtrack to play back at the crib.

The resulting atmosphere is controlled, almost stifling. Blunt, inelegant lyrics speak of soft love and slow ache. The singing is so slow and dreamy, one can only talk about its texture, not its technique. A warpedness that is often at the heart of the music of My Bloody Valentine is present, but seems painstakingly (almost awkwardly) conjured. Wah-wah guitar and the occasional strong melody move things away from ambient drone. One song, "Behind the Door," actually builds momentum and nearly achieves song status, while most cuts just suggest ideas and feelings and fade away, like words and drawings on a steamed car window on a rainy day.

What is the appeal of this album? You can neither place it nor deny it. It's pretty and slightly sad and somehow optimistic.