Qypthone has been on hiatus for quite a while now, but we’re getting to about that time of year where zesty, energetic summer jams are due for recognition.
Originally playing with groups like Pizzicato Five and Plus-Tech Squeeze Box, this little band enlists their bossanova-tinged take on the Japanese genre “shibuya-kei” to the scene, replete with all the vivaciousness and eccentricities that make such artists stand out. Their last full-length album, Montuno No. 5, will most likely be remembered as their most substantial work, even if it is a little on the short side.
Kicking things off with the album’s eponymous intro, “Montuno No. 5” puts the album’s fast-paced nature to work, complete with teasing pianos and Jet Set Radio-esque “turn it ups”. Immediately afterward, the album decides to take a swing in the other direction that it swings in – lush and laid-back lounge grooviness with a bittersweet “On the Palette”. Vocalist Izumi Ookawara, though not quite as powerful as genre peeress Tomoko Nagashima (of Orange Pekoe), still possesses a certain charm of her own, opting for a more subdued delivery laced with whimsy and male backing vocal harmonies. Qypthone’s taste for samba, alongside Ookawara’s playful voice, allows tunes like “Boogaloo Chair”, “Mustache” and “Scooter” to colorize the album with a legitimately fun atmosphere, but it carries a fairly soothing tone at times thanks to the aforementioned lounge aesthetic and vocals.
For one reason or another, Qypthone didn’t quite hit it off outside their native country as far as I can tell from substantially fewer ratings and lesser recognition online. They don a similar passion for the 60s and an eclectic mix of styles like shibuya-kei pioneers Pizzicato Five, but they choose to hone in on a more focused artistic vision as opposed to vivid, occasionally off-the-rails experimentation, and they do what they do perfectly well. It honestly might be a better idea to start with the pioneer’s music if diving into the history of shibuya-kei or looking for some Stevie Wonder-influenced experimental pop (woo, a double recommendation!), but if you’re already a fan or are specifically stocking up on spunky springtime/summertime mood enhancement, there’s little reason to leave this fruit sitting in the sand.