Posted on September 2nd, 2015 (1:00 pm) by Justin Goodman

When Mike reviewed Toe’s newest album last month, I was pumped. I hadn’t even known they’d come out with a new album and, honestly, I wasn’t even sure they still existed. They were that kind of band that you’re shown, love, and quickly forget everything but the experience of. But I’ve since learned of the label they formed, Machu Picchu, and the math rock bands they gathered under it. Yet, of them, only one kept its fascination of pure rhythm intact over the years. The jazz fusion three-piece Mouse On the Keys, whose newest album The Flowers of Romance, tries to engage the beating heart of math music as its debut an anxious object did in 2009.

Let’s be honest. No one thinks math (music or otherwise) and thinks of hearts or romance. Mike’s description of Toe’s Hear You is precisely the language the word, and the genre, present themselves with: “technical,” “intricate,” “mastered,” “craft.” Cold, calculating, exact. Toe is all that, and brilliant for it. But Mouse On The Keys, partly due to the naturally evocative tone of Atsushi Kiyota and Daisuke Niitome on the piano, managed the budget. That’s why the backgrounding of the piano throughout The Flowers of Romance, whether it drowns in the breakdown of “The Lonely Crowd” or exists merely as a tapped chord guided by complex drumming, seems like a real loss. “Leviathan,” for all its clarity of notes, feels like a James Bond chase scene; the swung scales at the end of “Mirror of Nature” tend towards monotony, shifting nervously between tonal center and pulse.

Don’t misunderstand me, because The Flowers of Romance stands out for its experimentation within Mouse On the Keys discography. The aggressive though gentler Merzbow-style harsh noise that opens “I Shut My Eyes in Order to See” and which closes “Le Gibet” sometimes makes up for the piano that’s not as prevalent as it could be on the album. Not as prevalent as it is on “Reflexion,” anyway, with its precarious cool jazz sax/piano combo. Though, if this is the natural course, maybe nothing’s lost. Both remind me of the Avant-Squalor of György Ligeti, just as more traditionally Mouse On the Keys pieces like “The Flowers of Romance” have all the soft adrenaline rush of Uematsu – specifically Final Fantasy X – and the experimental impulse of Steve Reich’s “Different Trains.” Does this album have the same perseverance? Probably not, lacking the hearty conflict that makes a good piece a masterpiece, but it’s still, technically, good.

Track Listing:

  1. I Shut My Eyes in Order to See
  2. Leviathan
  3. Reflexion
  4. Obsession
  5. The Lonely Crowd
  6. Mirror of Nature
  7. Hilbert Dub
  8. Dance of Life
  9. The Flowers of Romance
  10. Le Gibet
Purchase at: Amazon | eMusic

Our Rating

70 / 100
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