Tokyo Shoegaze Band Luby Sparks' Swirling New EP Finds Them Lost In Sadness
Dream-pop group Luby Sparks is shrouded in mystery. Comprised of five university friends bonded by their disinterest in popular Japanese music and fascination of brooding British bands, the Tokyo-based outfit has learned to craft a sound less at home in their modern neon city than it would be, say, in the 90s UK grunge scene with the floppy-haired youth penning angsty tracks to be performed in underground venues littered with DIY punk flyers and touches of ironic confetti here and there.
Other than the emotion and style they evoke, there’s not much known about Luby Sparks that you might find in the secret corners of the internet, but it’s this air of mystery and quietude that contribute beautifully to the music they make. Last month, the band released their latest EP, (I’m) Lost In Sadness, featuring four dreamy tracks dripping in fuzzy garage-rock treatment. Nothing is particularly clear or even necessarily cohesive on the record, but it’s a winding road of searing guitar and ambient soundscapes spiraling softly and kicking up dust.
(I’m) Lost In Sadness begins with “Perfect,” a dynamic introduction layered with endlessly intriguing sonic elements. The track opens with the perfect sear of strings before we get the dreamy wisp of vocals followed by a smash of hard-hitting percussion. The arrangement continues to build like this, every member of the band giving their all but moving from being restrained to being wild, a thoughtful duality carefully built by Luby Sparks. For four and a half minutes, we travel through the rolling hills of ambient dream-pop arrangements and robust garage-rock power. Ghostly vocal harmonies and steady pulses of percussion offer a sort of grounding to the swirling track,rich with detail.
Next comes “Cherry Red Dress,” a softer take on the high-energy heavens Luby Sparks opened up on the last track. The sparkly twang of guitar strums meets gentler slaps of percussion and deep bass blooms, each instrumental element forming a solid base for airy vocals to float atop. Later, the sonic dream tumbles into a wild, whirling arrangement of layered vocals and thick drums that conclude the track.
On “(I’m) Lost In Sadness,” Luby Sparks build a remarkable seven-minute soundscape flavored with the introduction of quick bongo beats and the chime of triangle. Opening with the otherworldly swell of reverb, the title track quickly flows into an erratic arrangement thickened by percussion and harmony. Throughout the composition, Luby Sparks move back and forth between buzzing rock solos (that searing guitar build-up is masterful to say the least) and dreamy comedowns, once again a well-executed contrast. Unlike its predecessors, this track boasts much change and newness, all of it serving to improve upon the already obvious talents of the young band.
The EP ends with a cover of Mazzy Star’s “Look On Down From The Bridge,” a devastating organ-led track reimagined by Luby Sparks with haunting harmonies reaching up from the depths of distortion. Where the original is heartbreaking through-and-through, there’s a hint of hope in Luby Sparks’ version. They maintain the sparkling bursts of sadness and tender percussion that make Mazzy Star’s classic so beautiful, but this time around it’s got a warm edge to it in the soft falsetto and quick beats urging the arrangement forward. It’s a compelling end to a remarkable record.
On (I’m) Lost In Sadness, Luby Sparks prove that though they be young and enigmatic, their work is a dazzling foray into classic shoegaze tinged by grunge elements. The result is always nothing short of beautiful, these sizzling gems fueled by tender reflection and a softened sort of angst.