Athens, Georgia?s Japancakes have been making music since 1996. ?Giving Machines? is their fifth album and the sound can best be described as post-rock with a twist. The album is full of instrumentals that incorporate the usual guitar, bass, and drums, as well as keyboards, cello, and pedal steel guitar. There is an underlying country twang to the music, coming mainly from the pedal steel. Really, the band sounds the best when the less conventional elements are given the spotlight. Occasionally, the album is a bit easy to tune out, but ultimately, it is a flowing, pleasant experience.
Throughout the album, the tracks that rely the most on unconventional instrumental elements are the best-sounding and the most interesting. The opening track, ?Double Jointed,? puts all of the band?s sounds to great use. Starting slowly, the song builds in tempo while adding heavier doses of keyboard and pedal steel. Those two instruments trade the lead in excellent fashion, while drums, cello, bass, and other percussion weave a dense background. Another track that nicely showcases the group?s sound is ?Tracing New Maps.? From the opening, the song is propelled by a tight, driving rhythm coming from the drums, bass, and keyboards. Meanwhile, cello and pedal steel join in and supply melodic lines with an almost vocal quality.
Throughout ?Giving Machines? there are great instrumentals and moments of great beauty. Really, the best part of the album is hearing the pedal steel, keyboards, and cello shine in the lead spot. When that occurs, the album sounds the most exciting. However, like much post-rock, some of the songs are not able to make the leap from being simply good background music. Still, Japancakes offer an 7/10 -- Matt Blackall (7 November, 2007)