VOLA & THE ORIENTAL MACHINE: Halan’na-ca Darkside


Before VOLA & THE ORIENTAL MACHINE released its full-length debut album, Android ~like a house mannequin~, the band did a few live shows with POLYSICS. The one-note, Ritalin-immune influence of VOLA’s tourmates could be felt all over the album, and it didn’t do it any favors.

Some of that unfortunate residue can still be heard on VOLA’s major label debut, Halan’na-ca Darkside, but it’s been mitigated with the tunesmithing from 2005’s brilliant debut, Waiting for My Food. Despite the compact 20-minute length, Halan’na-ca Darkside is actually an incredibly ambitious release.

(I guess you can tell I can’t fucking stand POLYSICS.)

The dub drum fill and bass line that opens "S.E." tips a hat to band leader Ahito Inazawa’s latter day work with NUMBER GIRL, but it’s a fleeting gesture. Aoki Yutaka bursts in with a simple guitar line that builds to a rabble rousing introduction by Inazawa himself.

Without pause, "self-defense" churns up and kicks the album into gear. The muddling, half-baked experiments of Android become a distant memory straight away.

Halan’na-ca Darkside wastes no time. There are no gaps between the tracks, and a series of short interludes — one as short as five seconds — keeps the momentum going.

"An imitation’s superstar" is the kind of track that should have appeared on the last album — claustrophobic and relentless, but never losing sight of the hook.

The last half of the album, on the other hand, sounds like the natural continuation of Waiting for My Food — New Wave guitar rock amped up by tenfold. Inazawa and Aoki bounce the guitar riff of "Double Standard" between each other at a quick clip. "soft genocide" shows a bit of silence can go a long way, while "Internal Division" anchors the album with its most tuneful melody.

The brief length serves the album well, but it’s frustrating to think there’s a longer form work somewhere to be mined. Or perhaps VOLA & THE ORIENTAL MACHINE are best consumed in short but big doses.

Halan’na-ca Darkside makes up for what was lost the last time out, and it’s the step the band should have taken after its debut.