‘Monkeys’ is an irrepressible kicking-off point, an early promise of abandon accentuated by turntablism- and simian-aping mellotron but soon settling into a charged percussive groove. Stephen Meidell’s bass (he also plays guitar and synth) locks tight to drummer Ivar Loe Bjørnstad’s looping riffs and Øystein Skar’s synths ride their surge, casting shadows and constructing walls of stately orchestral electronics.
There’s more variety here than on the earlier Cakewalk albums, but its early momentum carries through ‘Shrooms”s thrumming clutter of nagging rhythm and synth-rock Orientalism to the slower burn of ‘Dome’, setting up nicely the eerily ambiguous ‘State’, a driving streamlined groove with gleaming synth and comparatively abrasive guitar lines layered on (it gets a very different treatment on Meidell’s contemporaneous solo album, Metrics).
Rounding out the album there’s the catchy ‘Apostrophe’, which could be a progressive New Wave update on Kraftwerk, and ‘Rebound’, with an intro even more overtly in their debt. But Cakewalk are a different animal altogether, overlapping layers and grafting a rich patina of sonically tactile textures onto a rhythmic framework that Kraftwerk would’ve kept chromium clean, and not driven anything like as bracingly hard.
Ishihara may be a tad more varied than the earlier Cakewalk albums but it’s just as compacted, coherent, and – best taken in one concentrated hit – compulsively enjoyable.
Buy Ishihara direct from Hubro.