There is a precise point early on in Recitation where it dawns on us that there truly is no other band quite like Envy. 90 seconds into album opener "Guidance," amid a subtle symphony of synth washes, backwards guitar harmonics and chiming bells, a solitary female voice recites what sounds like a poetry in a language that few Envy fans outside of Japan can understand. And yet, its beauty is undeniable, and the emotional resonance is transcendent, sounding like a Japanese love letter to Brian Eno. This is why labels like "post-hardcore" feel so clumsy and slippery when slung at Envy; such tags assume a starting point that's miles away from where Envy began and worlds away from where they are now.
It's no surprise that Envy have increasingly found inspiration in cinematic rock and experimental ambient music - genres that historically circumvent cultural trappings. With each album since their inception in the early ‘90s the group have chipped away at the linguistic and cultural barriers inherent in international rock music. Their breakthrough came with 2003's A Dead Sinking Story, the groundbreaking third album that replaced familiar hardcore breakdowns with the sound of actual emotional breakdowns, and - along with similarly celestial groups like ISIS and Explosions In The Sky - helped blur the lines between more than a few genres. That began a transition that leads straight to Recitation, by far the most dynamic, technically diverse and emotionally complex album of Envy's two-decade career.
All the touchstones of classic Envy are there: Enormous dynamic range, soaring melodies that feel equally inspired by late 80s power ballads and dramatic film scores, and tortured, impassioned vocals that, even in a foreign language, vaguely recall 19th Century romantic poetry. The difference with Recitation is in its execution. Where recent co-releases with fellow underground rock icons Thursday and Jesu hinted at a band in transition, Recitation is a fully-realized vision from a band at their most inspired. Packed with more songs than any previous Envy album - songs lengths range from 90 seconds to nearly 9 minutes - Recitation is more than most any Envy fan could have hoped for, a triumph for the band and an inspiring leap forward for heavy music the world over.
Since their inception in 1992, Envy has become a dominant band in the independent heavy music scene in Japan, alongside fellow innovative head-splitters like MONO, Boris, Corrupted and Melt-Banana. Their music, through their own evolution, encompasses a sound where pure emotional intensity and elegant, fragile beauty perfectly coexist. They have recorded countless singles and albums, including split releases with Thursday, Jesu, This Machine Kills, Endeavor, Six Pence and Yaphet Kotto. They have toured Japan and Europe with the likes of friends and UK labelmates Mogwai and ISIS. In 1997 and 2000, they toured throughout Asia, playing to audiences in Hong Kong, China, Taiwan and Korea. Envy have toured Europe four times, including two invitations to perform at the legendary All Tomorrow's Parties Festival. They have toured North America only twice in their two decade career, in 2005 and 2006; this year will see Envy return to the United States for their lengthiest tour yet. They are one of the most innovative and world-renowned independent Japanese bands and are widely considered to be one of the best live bands in the world.
Members: Tetsuya Fukagawa - Vocal, Sequencer Nobukata Kawai - Guitar Masahiro Tobita - Guitar Manabu Nakagawa - Bass Dairoku Seki - Drums