The Colors of Money
On Instant Money Magic, Brooklyn-based musicians and art-punk wizards Japanther toss off their 13th record in 12 years, bathing themselves in a jovial push of spastic explosions that eat away at the flesh in the most pleasant of ways. Members Ian Vanek and Matt Reilly have built songs that almost never reach the two-minute mark, but the result isn’t some ADHD-laden mass of irascible punk. Instead, it’s a hodge-podge of soundscapes and hooks that coalesce occasionally into a brilliant array of color.
If a listener were stricken with synesthesia, that condition where one can see sounds, he or she might perceive a cycling barrage of pinks, greens and oranges that organize themselves in an abrasive formulation of something straight out of the brain of iconic visual artist Milton Glaser.
Perhaps it’s because the songs are so short and never really properly end– the whole set of 14 tracks tops out at barely 30 minutes– the whole album sounds like one song, consistent in tone, message and approach. Most albums by virtue of their design have some common threads, to be sure, but Instant Money Magic is a 26-minute song that feels like it takes six minutes.
Opener “Take Me In” is a beautiful remnant of some lost Sub Pop record tucked away for 20 years. The vocals are catchy, echoing a synth melody and hugging a peppy rhythm section covered in fuzz. “Wigman” kicks off with a sample of a news report about graffiti that develops into a slow (for Japanther) contemplation of miscommunication that culminates in a Brian Wilson-esque falsetto straight out of Smile-era Beach Boys. “Guns Guns Guns” opens with a drum machine that glues together a tight arrangement that carries out some psychedelic mantras that should endure for more than 90 seconds, which just means the listener has to listen on repeat to get the full effect.
On “Green Jug Intro”,” a 43-second interlude, the band features a laidback, echoey guitar grove over a modest drum machine. It can’t be long until someone mines this for a loop on Traktor, perhaps mashed up with some Frank Ocean or Usher. Instant Money Magic is around for such a brief period of time that repeat listens are required to take in the beautiful, the abrasive and the profane elements that permeate this oddball work of art.