By Yusuke Tsuruta / Yomiuri Shimbun Staff WriterIf you are expecting rock band Quruli’s new album to feature a back-to-basics sound reminiscent of their earlier releases, you will be surprised. The tracks on “Songline,” released on the Victor label, have elaborate structures that sound more like orchestral works.
Guitarist Shigeru Kishida gave his abstract assessment of the album: “It was like serving food on old dishes rather than buying new plates.”
The band, which formed in 1996, currently consists of Kishida, Masashi Sato (bass, vocals), and Fanfan (trumpet, keyboards, vocals).
Blending genres such as techno, classical and world music on each release, the band is famous for its style shifts. However, on this release it seems they have focused on making the album sound like a live performance without excessively evolving their sound.
“We made full use of computer technology to produce a vintage-like sound,” Kishida said. “It’s like using a computer to mimic hand-drawn manga or illustrations of traditional Japanese houses.”
The album’s titular track “Songline” symbolizes the sound of the album. Guitar riffs flow from the right speaker and the drums from the left in a classic band setup, but other instruments such as trumpet and flute, also appear. Although it feels like a simple pop song, the multiple sounds that appear in the mix give the impression of a considered approach to production.
“The number of audio tracks on the song exceeds 100. It’s pretty unusual that a song with a classic rock sound has over 100 different elements.”
In 2016, the Kyoto Symphony Orchestra performed a symphony composed by Kishida that was subsequently released on CD. Kishida said this experience greatly influenced him when making the new album.
“When you’re playing in a band, you rarely use a score. We just make a rough plan and then build up the work freely by performing the song. When I worked with the orchestra, I tried to write precisely what needed to be written precisely ... To my surprise, I really got into it,” he said.
Kishida wrote two of the songs on the album — “Wasurenai yoni” (Not to forget) and “Haru o Matsu” (Waiting for spring) — around the time of the band’s major-label debut in 1998, apparently leaving the songs untouched since then because they did not fit the rock’n’roll direction of the band.
“I forgot most of the lyrics of ‘Wasurenai yoni’ despite its title,” he said, laughing. “I had more trouble singing this song than the others. Perhaps it hadn’t matured enough.”
Despite his comments, the song, which has a beautiful melody, gives no impression that it was composed roughly 20 years ago.
It is the first time the band has had a four-year interval between albums featuring original material.
“We’ve released a few things in between, so it doesn’t feel like this is the first in a while,” he said.
The album’s 12 tracks, which he said were created over a long period without rushing, are fundamentally rock songs. But upon closer inspection elements of soul can be found — the same way a simple watch face hides its complex and precise core.