Sunday, September 28, 2008

Kaleidescopic Koncoctions

Morphic Jukebox (Morph-Rock)
LP: Kaleidescapes (2008, Independent)

What do you get when you mix your own songs with hints of Paul Weller, and Van Morrison, then throw in some Tindersticks and Bob Dylan for good measure?

A Morphic Jukebox, that’s what.

This Kyoto band has been drawing enthusiastic crowds on the local pub scene for some time, as well as snagging some cool festival and TV appearances.

Their self-produced debut release, Kaleidescapes - cool cover art by Kyoto artist Oliver Kinghorn - would in my day have been called an EP (extended play) since it features a very manageable six songs.

I wish more bands would do this. Say it loud: "Bring back the EP!"

Are Rob Cross and Russ Hubert Kyoto’s Lennon and McCartney? This transplanted Brit and New Yawker democratically divvy up the tracks three-apiece and offer an eclectic mix of self-penned material. Between them they tackle an impressive variety of instruments including banjo, harmonica, keyboards, trumpet, guitar and dobro.

The modest Nao Hattori provides excellent support on stand up and electric bass. Live, the band are augmented by new percussionist Ted Taylor.

Kaleidescapes is an apt title, because the record morphs into a variety of styles while maintaining its own identity. Highlights include Shine a Light, a wistful ode to destiny from Hubert, whose heartfelt tenor reminds me of Stuart Staples of the UK’s Tindersticks.

Hubert’s topical CNN Blues actually starts with the words, “I woke up this morning” but then tackles the decidedly modern theme of media saturation. Bandleader Cross contributes some effective Hendrix wah-wah, and I really dig the way Russ sings, “Hell no!”

Cross’ Get Away is a song of escape whose chorus has firmly planted itself in my brain for two days with no let up. If you’ve ever had the hankering to run off and forget your troubles - and who hasn’t? - I think you'll be able to relate.

Morphic has gotta be the perfect word for a band which switches effortlessly between folk, blues, country, trad-jazz and rock, and Kaleidescapes features solid musicianship.

Make it Last
and ChoCho-chan Boogie both contain excellent finger picking guitar which - amateur studio buffs take note - has been recorded quite impressively. On the aforementioned ChoCho-chan Boogie, talented engineer Russ Hubert crafts a great trad-jazz pastiche. Respect.

Fast becoming a fixture on the Kyoto scene, Morphic Jukebox tell me they have come a long way since recording Kaleidescapes and are raring to get back into the studio. I must say I’m looking forward to hearing what they conjure on their follow-up, but for now Kaleidescapes - an exceedingly nifty debut - will do nicely.

Band website:
Oliver Kinghorn:


amoremusica said...

Enjoyed your intriguing review of Morphic's CD, Shiffi. Haven't listened to it yet myself (where can I get hold of it?) but I've gotta say that MJB are a terrific live act. Great energy and great music!

Shiffi Le Soy said...

Hi, I think you can get info about the CD on MJB web site, address is at bottom of my piece, or go to one of their shows!!