Topshelf Records – 27th January

Japan’s Mouse On The Keys aren’t comparable to many artists, but compatriots Cornelius certainly spring to mind. The latter are more funky, more flippant, but the contrapuntal beats, keep-‘em-guessing arrangements and uncommon time signatures are hallmarks of both bands. And it is this shared rhythmic freshness that maketh Mouse On The Keys, whose confounding drum patterns are the genius work of Akira Kawasaki, band instigator and former sufferer of asymptomatic brain infarction, or silent stroke. It was this condition that inspired the concept for ‘Out of Body’, along with the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant disaster of 2011. Oh, and a book on near-death experiences. You’ll understand by now that Olly Murs this ain’t.

So it’s a complex album, an instrumental one, naturally, as such subjects would test the most sensitive of lyricists, yet it’s generous in its fascinations and really not as uncomfortable as you might assume. Sure, time signatures run amok amid the discordant jittery jazz of ‘Afterglow’, while Kawasaki’s impeccably stumbling beats combine with howling synths and barely discernible background clutter for the intense ‘Earache’, but even here some gentle piano offers melodic respite. The ivories also bring a haunting harmony to the minimalist electronica of ‘Dark Wave’, while ambient standout ‘Elegie’ offers beautiful nocturnes set to Kawasaki’s crisp drumming.

This short album draws to a close with the title track, where sub-bass throbs like a bruised heartbeat to very little accompaniment, and is as funereal as ‘Out of Body’ gets. What this relatively diverse collection says about death, or near-death, is open to question, but it’s compelling enough to make the listener feel a little guilty for gleaning such satisfaction from Kawasaki’s pain, as he brings new meaning to suffering for one’s art.

Buy: Mouse On The Keys – Out Of Body.

Live: Rich Mix – 1st May.