I had a chance to meet with Mouse on the Keys drummer, Akira Kawasaki, in a Tokyo cafe leading up to the release of the band’s newest album, Tres.
With excitement building from the release of the singles “Time (feat. Mario Camarena of CHON)” and “Stars Down (feat. Dominique Fils-Aime),” it was hard to keep face and not show how much of a die-hard fan I am.
Tres, with its balanced and captivating beginning-to-end flow, did not disappoint. It feels strategically pieced together, making it a pleasure to listen through again and again. Overall, it provides a relaxed and hypnotic wave over you that elicits a ponderous chill-out mood.
This ability that songs like “Pulse (feat. Dominique Fils-Aime)” have takes you away from that packed train journey and out of the world, so you can look back in and think, “It’s not all bad”.
With Tres, it seems trivial to attempt to label its sound. The concept of the album combined with the musicianship of Mouse on the Keys and the featured artists is so professional that it lends itself to being respected and enjoyed solely as an artform built from mathematically justified foundations, much like architecture.
Time (feat. Mario Camarena of CHON)
It’s clear the conception of this album and each of its songs had very clear goals. Just like how the song “The Prophecy” was originally written and released for acclaimed Japanese architect Tadao Ando to be used at his exhibition Endeavors. It was made to be paired with art. “Time” proved that Mouse on the Keys could adapt to a new sound otherwise unheard of in their repertoire.
5 out 10 songs include a featured artist showing that Mouse on the Keys aren’t afraid to evolve. For example, this is the first album that features vocals, which are beautifully sung on the tracks “Stars Down” and “Pulse” by 40s and 60s inspired soul singer Dominique Fils-Aime.
Stars Down (feat. Dominique Fils-Aimé)
Advice and influences that the band has come across in their last few years of activity has given them focus, like most musicians, to rise to a new level that will gain respect of a wider audience pushing their exposure more into the global eye.
According to Akira, while on tour Brian Eno showed up to one of their shows and expressed how much he enjoyed their music. This praise influenced the decision to hold back on super technical elements and complicated time signatures and focus on the the overall ambience of the music.
As a result, Tres feels fuller in comparison to their earlier work. A lot of care has gone into controlling the ambient sounds sitting deep in the mix. It’s really a case of less is more. However, as a sacrifice across most of the album we lose the speedy machine-like drumming found in songs like “Leviathan” from their earlier album The Flowers of Romance.
I feel that element is something they should brag about and keep as part of their unique identity. Becuase of its loss, Tres is a lot softer than previous work. This could just be part of their evolution into something mightier, though.
For me, “Phases” is my favourite track. It shifts through moods and parts seamlessly, building with lots of subtle layers allowing you float around and explore them on each and every listen. Is this the start of Mouse on the Keys’ climb to the next level in their evolution?
[Tres] feels strategically pieced together, making it a pleasure to listen through again and again.
All in all, this new album from Mouse on the Keys is pleasing, different and well-constructed. It’s hard not to find something you like within its 10 songs. Play it to your friends. Play it to your mum. Play it to your dog.
Released 23rd of May internationally on Topshelf Records and produced through their own label Fractec, a limited print half coke bottle clear and half Silver 12” LP is available for pre-order and will ship in July. Only 500 copies will be printed certainly making it a special purchase.
If you are lucky enough to be in Japan in June this year, they are playing three shows dedicated to the release of this album in Tokyo, Nagoya and Osaka.