After Dinner: Paradise of Replica Album Review


Born out of Kansai’s new-wave scene, After Dinner were an ambitious 1980s art-pop group led by singer, songwriter and sound artist known simply as Haco. She had been inspired by a multitude of different music growing up: the orchestral arrangements in the children’s book and the LP series Book Doremifa, movie soundtracks and accidental noises emanating from his father’s TV and various rock bands from the Doors to the Young Marble Giants to Art Bears. She attended a media art school in Osakan to learn concrete music techniques, which permeated the colorful tracks on After Dinner’s 1984 debut album, glass tube; there she married her avant-garde practices to her affection for pop and rock, with tape loops and collages of found sounds alongside award-winning cabaret songs. Against the backdrop of 1980s Japan, they had the theatrics of Jun Togawa and the goofy eccentricity of Haniwa-chan or Wha-ha-ha, but the experience was more like being trapped in a haunted toy box.

For their second album, 1989 Replica Paradise, After Dinner leaned towards pop, but Haco’s forward-thinking practices still permeate every song. The title track, for example, opens the album with triumphant synths that are layered with whimsical tape manipulations. The phrase “Paradise of Replica”, which Haco majestically recites throughout the song, comes from imagining a bird’s eye view of an island where everything below was fake. The synths’ approximation of the blaring horns is appropriate, but the song still feels like it’s witnessing something out of the ordinary – the hammering dulcimer and jew’s harp that closes the song are hauntingly haunting in a comfortable, childish way.

The title was also a tongue-in-cheek joke regarding Japan’s propensity to, in Haco’s words, “cop[ying] other countries” and blending these influences in a typically Japanese way. This practice applies to the entire record, which draws from a deep well of influences, including the prepared piano works of John Cage, the dynamic synth pop of Strawberry Switchblade, and the hauntingly beautiful The Mystery of the Bulgarian Voices. The result is not a direct transposition of these inspirations, but they are there in the details. Haco’s admiration for Captain Beefheart is audible in the frenetic energy and revving guitar on both “Kitchen Life” tracks. His penchant for Nino Rota soundtracks is evident in the centerpiece “Ironclad Mermaid,” whose swept strings carry the same dramatic elegance of something Federico Fellini. Amarcord.

For all the moving parts that make up a given After Dinner track, their writing always feels meticulously organized and purposeful. “Dancing Twins” is only a minute long, but its use of a bouncing volleyball as an instrument is major: it gives its metaphor of eyes as shooting stars a jolly schoolyard air, suggesting a child carried away in fantastic daydreams. “A Walnut” is equally magical, as Haco’s operatic vocals and gourmet lyrics soar above an array of woodwinds, percussion and shimmering synths. He recalls what after dinner said NME in 1987: “We try to create a great atmosphere. These sacrosanct atmospheres, however, still feel everyday and attainable. Even “KA-NO-PU-SU-NO-HA-KO” – an eight-minute epic in which Haco traces his thoughts after seeing an Egyptian mummy in a museum – accomplishes the feat with smooth percussion and patient drones. . Rarely does art-pop combine its extravagance with such alluring modesty. In doing so, Replica Paradise gives the impression of encountering cinematic spectacles in miniature.

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After dinner: replica heaven


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