In a similar reaction to the first time I heard label-mates Otoboke Beaver, I sat bolt upright, shocked and thrilled in equal measure at the opening track of o’ summer vacation’s new album Wicked Heart. The Kobe-based trio of mikiiii on bass, Ami on vocals and Manu on drums have created a compulsive and frenetic riot of tracks that judder and swirl like a vortex of broken concrete shards; a vortex that feels like it will spin out of control but never does. The members of o’ summer vacation play in a symbiotic way, with taught co-dependency and it’s as if they have wired themselves together so that when neurons are fired by one band member the other two respond in milliseconds. Their playing is part-telepathy, part-empathy, and all in. A world of controlled chaos.
Bass player mikiiii and drummer Manu criss-cross riffs and fills, trade blows, hug, dance and generally act like staccato siblings. Mikiiii is commander-in-chief of an army of FX pedals with the press release listing ‘whammy, ring modulator, looper, distortion, overdrive, delay, and switch’. This means that songs can have a gritty depth like ‘NUTS’ or ‘Black Heat’ or be crazy-odd like the super-fast-electronic-weirdness of ‘Hommage’ or ‘扁桃腺のモニーク (hentousen no MONIQUE)’. Manu matches mikiiii’s every stab, lightning-run or emergency stop, and I was so convinced he must have four arms in order to play that many beats I double checked a few live videos but, unbelievably, he has just the standard two.
Over the crackling electricity of mikiiii and Manu, Ami releases an assault of “meaningless lyrics and onomatopoeia” which punch through the bass and drums and rain down on the listener like hail stones. At times Ami joins in the syncopation, weaponising vowels and consonants to fight alongside mikiiii and Manu in the war against mediocrity, or, as with ‘C.J.D.’, she floats through the track with a bouncing cadence that is half spoken and half sung. o’ summer vacation are bigger than the sum of their parts making three people sound like a frenzied block party.
Wicked Heart is barely 20 minutes long but it’s so thrilling you’ll be compelled to jump to the beginning. Like riding a wild bull, you’ll get thrown off but get back on the beast so you can cling on for another exhilarating 19 minutes. All those off-kilter time signatures contain the power of an energy drink factory, and the overall effect is like having a mosh pit in your ears. As with the ‘choose life’ maxim of Trainspotting this is life plugged into the mains; an edifying reminder that sometimes we need to feel as alive as a skydiver and Wicked Heart is that leap out into the blue so picture me packing my parachute because I’m ready to jump again.
Review by Paul F Cook