A blank smattering of sound
There’s a strong history of improvisation and experimentation in the world of noise rock. Everyone from HEALTH to Melvins has engaged in the tried and true method of simply wailing on your instrument until something sufficiently interesting happens. Sometimes, you get magic out of this, for a sufficient example go check out Body/Head. Other times it sounds like what it is: meaninglessly beating away at a guitar in the hope that it comes away sounding decent enough. Because noise rock is inherently okay when things becoming unhinged, we get a disconcerting amount of it. Toshi Kasai, however, seems to know a little better, though his latest record Plan D clings rather closely to expected outcomes.
It’s fairly accepted that in the world of experimental music that the capital sin is not putting out bad music but putting out bland music. If that is the case, then Toshi Kasai may find himself on trial. Plan D is not bland by any standard definitions but does indeed fall short when compared to his past work as a collaborator with both Melvins and Big Business. Where both those groups, particularly Melvins, went to establish the ethos of an entire genre, Plan D simply trots along, happy to be making noise.
Kasai isn’t making poor music on Plan D but when you look at this record next to anything Melvins has ever put out, it’s hard to find yourself wowed. Sure, the guitars and synth work on “Landing, the Search Begins” and “Joe Plummer” are mind-bendingly impressive, but unless technicality is your primary musical interest, there is little going on in either of these tracks that should elicit much of a reaction. In fact, many of these tracks feel completely unplanned.
While nothing is wrong with putting forward a jam session as an album, there are still certain expectations one should rightfully hold when approaching these records. When it comes to noise rock and its sister genres, second to blandness is predictability. Plan D may not telegraph its every note, but it certainly telegraphs its purpose. The album is a void, a technically impressive one, mind you, but a void nonetheless. Nothing in this album pulls forth any emotion or any thrills. It is simply a guitar, endlessly impressing but saying nothing.
Many a reviewer has complained of musicians valuing technicality over artistry, but it was certainly disappointing to see a noise rock legend fall into that very same trap. Toshi Kasai is a legend of the genre, and rightfully so. His work with Melvins and Big Business has left an indelible mark on the genre that cannot be taken away. Even still, Plan D comes forth as a half-baked jam session rather than an album, and as a result, is incapable of holding the attention of any serious noise rock listener. It may be technically competent at all turns, but is devoid of meaning at every turn.