Mura were a previously little-known group from Japan, formed by friends Kota Inukai (vocals, guitar), Masaki Endo (bass) and Sho Shibata (drums) in the late noughties. Performing mostly in small events in Sapporo, they were outsiders, and felt a kinship with few other groups, though Inukai mentions rock group Green Apple Quick Step, and hardcore band Ababazure as fellow travellers. This isolation surely feeds into the uniqueness of Mura’s music – they sound little like much that we know of the taggable Japanese underground of their times, and the music they recorded for this, their debut album, spanning a decade, is gloriously all over the shop, from delirious punk wig-outs to strange pop miniatures.
The group formed young – Inukai was only fourteen when they started, and Mura were his first ever band. When pressed on what they were listening to while making their music, Inukai recalls that he “used to listen to the works of Haruomi Hosono a lot”, and you can hear traces of this, perhaps, in the breadth of the sound Mura explores, from the lovely, country-esque shuffle of “In The Talk”, through the garage-y plunk of “Rest” and the reflective, melancholy “Younger Brother”. They were also big fans of video game music – “even orchestral covers of video games”, Inukai smiles – and that’s in there, too, in the split-second responsiveness of the playing, the way they flick through ideas and genres almost impatiently, taking minutes to cover terrain that other groups might spend albums and years exploring. But the songs were also grounded in Japan’s history, with many of the songs inspired by “old Hokkaidō,” Inukai recalls, “from the Meiji, Taishō, Shōwa periods.” With Inukai coming up with the melodies, and Shibata fleshing out arrangements, all three members then contributed lyrics. You can hear that collective effort in the way the music moves, every player listening carefully to each other, the songs moving gracefully, but not without verve and vim. It’s a delightful album, full of pop songs that take unexpected turns, with glinting melodies sung out, here sweetly, there with gruff candour, guitars tangling together like an unholy union of Tom Verlaine and Jad Fair, every song charged with a new, unpredictable spirit.