"The Sleepy Strange?, Japancakes? second album was originally issued on Kindercore in 2001 and is now re-released by Darla. Probably ?Post Rock? would have been the tag when this record first appeared and indeed the dense woven, multilayered instrumentals not only conjure up images of those vintage super8-movies, that were integral ingredients of the late 1990s? visual taste, but they also show an interest in minimal music, exotica and instruments like the pedal steel guitar, which quite a few groups shared in the heyday of Post-Rock.
However, while this introduction may help to get an idea about Japancakes? music, applying the ?Post Rock?-label not only seems outmoded today, but also is as insufficient as any mere categorizing. The music itself is mostly soft and gentle, with the sounds unfolding into waves of repetitive melodic phrases that evoke an almost somnambulistic atmosphere, as warm harmonies drift by and mingle with quiet percussion. Yet, those smooth harmonies and melodic swirls cannot always escape the latent tendency of becoming decorative tapestries and some pieces could have benefited from an occasional dose of noise and the proportionate reduction of country-pop-tinged friendliness.
Thus the album?s best moments are those in which the music avoids the interference of a somewhat kitschy sweetness and succeeds to evocate a feeling of free flowing, while maintaining some structural strictness. ?The Waiting? is a good example here, but above all ?Vanishing Point? and the closing ?Vinyl Fever?. While the latter?s repetitive fabric of rhythm and melody and the almost ?cosmic? analogue synth background create a relaxed, trance-like effect, the former drastically decelerates the album?s already slow pace and works with a highly reduced structure based on a few repeated and modulated tones to arrive at a result that best demonstrates the minimalist elegancy that Japancakes? aesthetic approach can attain, but unfortunately rarely achieves on ?The Sleepy Strange?. 6/10 -- Magnus Schaefer (15 April, 2008)