TEKE::TEKE – Shirushi – Album Review

TEKE::TEKE are a Montreal based Japanese psych band. Shirushi is their debut album and it is a genuinely wild record drenched in 60s/70s psychedelia with plenty of surprises.

Released: 7th May 2021

Label: Kill Rock Stars

Format: CD / Vinyl / Digital

Montreal-based Japanese psych punk band, TEKE::TEKE is a unique beast; a seven-piece band featuring traditional Japanese instruments, flute and trombone alongside raging guitars and a pulsing rhythm section. They create a sound reminiscent of 1960’s and 70’s era psychedelic Japanese soundtracks, with a frenetic, modern twist.

From the off, there is so much to get your teeth into on Shirushi. Kala Kala opens in a swirl of flutes, rolling drums, wah-wah guitar and deep horn tones before the drums pave the way for the glory of the opening riff. The juxtaposition of traditional Japanese instrumentation along with the driving guitar grab your attention. Yoru Ni again shows the bands rhythm section to be the jewel in the TEKE::TEKE crown. It’s upbeat, cheery and deeply evocative all at the same time. It’s the kind of song that folks from the first wave of psych rock would freak out over.

From a curious exploration of the song titles and what they might mean to a person not au fait with the language, Dobugawa appears to be a song about a ditch with running water. A looped electronic beat not to far from a bossa nova beat moves the song forward amongst the many other facets that TEKE::TEKE amongst their seven strong ranks. It’s a slower number before one of the best songs I’ve heard this year.

Barbara owes a massive amount to the classic garage rock sound. It is a pounding few minutes of music delivered with real gusto. Horn motifs that recall Frank Zappa in his early 70’s pomp cut through as the band make a brilliant noise!

“As I was making my way out of a subway station (here in Montreal), some old guy came from behind me saying “Barbara, Barbara, is it you? Barbara, it’s you isn’t it?…Barbara!…” Then the idea was taken to another level completely, with a twist inspired by ‘Zashiki-Warashi’.

The song centers on a being called a Zashiki-Warashi, an impish childlike spirit that pulls pranks around a home. Despite the minor annoyances, their presence actually is a sign of good fortune for the “victims.” In “Barbara”, TEKE::TEKE imagine one of these spirits escaping the confines of the house, making mischief across the city.

TEKE::TEKE rhythm guitarist Hidetaka Yoneyamaon on the song Barbara

Kizashi utilises pizzicato style plucking around lush strings and a hypnotic, undulating guitar riff. The tension builds throughout to create something truly epic. As Kaminari bleeds into your conscious, the vocals have an almost Celtic feel to them in their delivery. Is this folk-psych? Or psych-folk? An astounding vocal range makes for an emotional midpoint of an utterly beguiling record. The music sounds like The Coral circa 2002 are the backing band. Sarabande employs the use of horns atop the main body of music; it evokes memories of Pink Floyd’s grand 1970 opus, Atom Heart Mother.

The grandeur continues and builds to a fever pitch on the album’s closing song, Tekagami. In a departure from some of the heavier moments on Shirushi, there is a serenity in how TEKE::TEKE close out their debut long player. Plucked strings, beautiful string harmonies, simple guitar motifs and dreamy vocals ensure you are taken to a different world from the one you experienced for the previous 35 minutes of the album. Late era Beatles and Super Furry Animals spring to mind as the strings play out.

TEKE::TEKE have delivered a masterful record in Shirushi. Every single song oozes class and ardor. When the world is open again, you can envisage this band garnering a real cult following. Their sound will resonate with so many people, young and old, who love having their heads wobbled with music.

Listen to Barbara from TEKE::TEKE below.

TEKE::TEKE: Bandcamp / Website / Facebook / Instagram

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