Release Date: Sep 23, 2014
Record label: Thrill Jockey
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock, Indie Rock, Indie Electronic, Shibuya-Kei
Dustin Wong and Takako Minekawa opened their collaboration to the world with last year’s Toropical Circle album, whose delicately looped keyboard chirps, jittering guitar lines, and breathy vocalizations, painted in pastel streaks across empty canvases of stereophonic space, united with song titles like “Two Acorns’ Dreams Growing as One” or “Circle Has Begun” into a portrait of a partnership still in the early stages of shared self-discovery. For all its sugar, the album’s more animated passages of generative loop building (“Swimming Between Parallel Times”) and textural guitar wizardry (“Party on a Floating Cake”) showed that these acorns’ dreams encompassed sophisticated ideas and performance strategies to complement the project’s playful exterior. The forces of whimsy and technicality, far from contradicting each other, fused into a kawaii baroque aesthetic — bewitched by the capacity for dexterity, but rooted to solid ground by the motivation to flesh out more sincere emotional spaces.
It took 13 years for Japanese shibuya-kei artist Takako Minekawa to figure out a way back into music, and after that protracted silence comes color, exploding out into the ether. Minekawa signed off in 2000 with the Maxi On EP, only to return in 2013 for a collaborative work with former Ponytail guitarist Dustin Wong, the beautifully light Toropical Circle. Here, the pair team up for Savage Imagination, released just over a year later.
I am still in deep mourning over the demise of Dustin Wong’s old band Ponytail. I gnash my teeth and squeal with rage and frustration when I consider the ass-kicking euphoria of Ponytail’s swansong Do Whatever You Want All the Time and the amazing possibilities for future musical greatness suggested by that record; greatness that Ponytail will now, apparently, never realize. Is it fair to judge a musician as talented and inventive as Dustin Wong by the standards of a beloved, defunct previous band? Probably not, but I can’t help it, and I imagine that a lot of people who have listened to Wong’s solo work since Ponytail’s diffusion have not been able to help it either.
When Japanese artist Takako Minekawa stopped making music just after the turn of the century, a significant flicker of weirdness went out of the J-pop scene. Fortunately, all it took was a Ponytail gig, where Minekawa was introduced to the band's guitarist Dustin Wong, to reignite her creative spark. That initial meeting led to the duo collaborating on 2011's Toropical Circle, an album that paired Wong's shimmering guitar melodies with Minekawa's crystalline voice and chirpy electronics.Their follow-up, Savage Imagination, draws more on the latter element, pushing the overall glitchy soundscape into a more widescreen listening experience.
When former Ponytail guitarist Dustin Wong lured electronic pop musician Takako Minekawa out of a long break for last year’s Toropical Circle, their combination resulted in a beautiful technicolor wonderland. Listening to the album felt like wandering through a highly detailed cartoon, Minekawa voicing the characters as her synths and Wong’s looped guitar intricacies built up grand settings. It must’ve been as much fun to make as it was to listen to, because the duo came back together for a follow-up, Savage Imagination, which attempts to dig deeper into the glitchy ambiance, sacrificing some of its predecessor’s sugar rush dynamics.