REVIEW: Tokyo Wanderer – Incubus (2019)

Tokyo Wanderer crosses the connections between all the ‘wave’-genres of the late naughts and teens; Synthwave, Outrun, Chillwave and Future Funk blend in and out across the album. Only Vaporwave fails to make an overt appearance.

Incubus is clinically cold. Synth lines and ‘glitched’ out chops are warped through phasers, both standing as foundational sonic elements. Big, spacious guitar solos mimicking 80s corporate rock inject a liveliness to the early tracks- helping the songs shift and morph in a more organic direction as they go. It is all very sonically pleasing.

But as the first 3 tracks roll over into the album’s latter half featuring guest musicians (mostly vocalists), Tokyo Wanderer is lead astray. 4th track and album midway point Loveless, featuring vocalist Lavera, is a delightfully poppy track, reminiscent of Kali Uchis’s first album. But with a tight EP contained in the album’s first 4 songs, Incubus tanks into grievously bad territory.

First offender, the song Drown, features singers Phaun and Nuno Renato Guerreiro. Tokyo Wonderer’s guitar work turn to softer, 90s style-alternative; warbling and burning up under tremolo and overdrive while Phaun contributes a somewhat lifeless Pop vocal performance. Crossing into the final third of the song, the predictive Pop stylings of breakdown-bridge to turn around show. It’s all pretty standard, until Nuno Renato Guerreiro comes roaring in with the most powerless, processed, and airy guttural vocal delivery I’ve heard in a long time. It’s a vocal style so terribly out of place anywhere on the album that it came as a shock. Science asked if it could, but it never asked if it should.

Following this, the song Hurt kicks off with 4 minutes of what sounds like someone taking direct inspiration of Miyazaki’s go-to composer Joe Hisaishi and British Industrial Metal legends Godflesh. Not bad if I do say so myself. The album’s lengthiest song at 7 minutes 58 seconds, I actually quite enjoyed it. But at 4 minutes and 12 seconds in- and still reeling from the prior track- I was sonically accosted by Nameless Warning. Having been silent up until this point, I began to assume they were contributing something other than vocals- perhaps part of the new ‘Doom-y’ guitar elements. But no.

Sounding like a yassified Microsoft Sam, ‘just popping in’ to deliver you a ‘sad boy’ shtick of lyrics, this might be the biggest upset in recorded music history.

The titular closing track features Sola The Luva, Shrouded Serenity, Indyadvant, and a second vocal feature from Phaun. The corporate Rock guitar soloing is back and this time it’s less pleasant. Incubus makes a brief detour into trap territory before arriving at the song’s (and I guess, in turn, the album’s) final destination: chunky Alternative Metal.

That’s all that ought to be said.

For fans of: android52, Washed Out, Slime Girls

Like Tokyo Wonderer? Give these a listen: Pachinko, Warpaint, Neon Indian

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