By now it's no longer much of a secret that Tokyo's Citrus Nowhere are regarded as one to keep an eye on in the Japanese shoegaze scene. I wrote as much in my 2016 preview piece at the beginning of the year, and the band's commitment to not only putting out more material - seemingly the endgame for a lot of promising young bands here - but to gigging and ironing out any remaining wrinkles in their live game has been a really positive sign.
The band had a bit of a coming out party in the form of a self-titled EP and release party alongside fellow passengers on the raging war wagon that is the new generation of Japanese shoegaze bands, Yukino Chaos. At the gig, which took place in Nagoya, there was a sense that everything was still being figured out. It wasn't super tight, but you got a feel for what they were doing. I enjoyed the opportunity to see them. It didn't feel like a finished product. To be fair, it was also the band's fourth ever show.
This month Citrus Nowhere released its second EP, this one titled A Nightmare Before She Sleeps, as a free download on Bandcamp. At first listen its hard to ignore the release's raw production value. The fuzzed-out guitars dominate the mix while the drums are faint enough in the background to guide you hazily through each song. There's a playful poppiness to what's going on below the layers of noise, and I found the combination more interesting than their previously released work.
The intro track "Beautiful Lies" is a persistent, free-flowing wash of droning guitars. It's a refreshingly unstructured song with a bit of a subtle jangle and light male-female vocal harmonies fluttering around. There's some pop there, but it's subdued for the sake of noise.
"Blue Enemies" is another that stuck out, perhaps because it's got a bit of a different vibe from the rest of the EP and it sits right smack in the middle of the five songs. The beat on this track is infectious and the band does well to create a haunting mood from some trippy textures and subtle falsetto vocals.
As a stand-alone, Citrus Nowhere's A Nightmare Before She Sleeps is really enjoyable, but the production will definitely be a turn off for some. In context though, this EP is a step in the right direction, muddying things up in a scene where too many bands try to keep things super clean. It's their willingness to experiment and not shy away from the harsher side of things that makes these guys, in my opinion, such a key member of this new wave of Japanese shoegaze bands.
You can pick up A Nightmare Before She Sleeps, as well as their self-titled EP, on Bandcamp for free.