By Bobby Reed | Published May 2020
Listening to Childish Japes’ latest album is like being invited to a party and making some new friends who are huddled in a corner: An hour ago you didn’t even know these people’s names, but now you’re eager to learn more about them.
Looking into the band’s recent past, one thing becomes clear: The new album is a departure from its predecessor. In August 2018, the trio of Asher Kurtz (guitar), Jed Lingat (bass) and JP Bouvet (drums) released Salamander, which featured the pop-oriented singer Dave Vives on all the tracks.
The band’s new album, The Book Of Japes, finds the core trio delivering an all-instrumental program alongside Christian Li (keyboards) and David Leon (saxophones, bass clarinet). The sonic territory here is a place where jazz meets art-rock, with lots of improvisation. The tracks feature bolts of aggressive, rewarding dialogue, with members trading solos as if to say, “That’s what you got? OK, here’s what I got.”
The track “9:41” begins like a standard rock tune and then somersaults into a thrashing, skronking maelstrom before descending into a spare meditation and then returning to the melodic head. The longest track, “Testimonies,” starts with a catchy melody line before shifting to another sonic lane that eventually leads to the metaphoric soundtrack of a sci-fi movie where the hero’s spaceship verges on overheating.
“Summer MT-35”—the title of which might nod to the model number of a vintage Casio keyboard—offers a head-bobbing groove and touch of whimsy. “Vic Pils” features Kurtz’s chiming guitar work, Li’s infectious keyboard riffs, which nod to ’80s new wave, plus alto saxophone and bass clarinet parts played by Leon (whose resume includes work with trumpeter Adam O’Farrill and saxophonist Ingrid Laubrock).
For a glimpse at the recording sessions for The Book Of Japes, fans can check out a YouTube clip in Bouvet’s video blog, featuring excerpts from six tracks. The clip hints at a level of chummy camaraderie that is evidenced by the grooves on this intriguing, nine-track album.