Giving Machines is the sixth full-length album from Japancakes, and it's only the first of two releases that they'll be putting out this fall. Although this one is (largely) original material, it's nonetheless been overshadowed in interest by their upcoming start-to-finish cover album of My Bloody Valentine's classic Loveless album (with pedal steel and cello in place of vocal and lead melodies, and without any distortion). The long-running quintet is one of those groups that's about as steady as they come, releasing album after album of gently-affecting songs that are always heavy on atmosphere and gorgeous sonics without every knocking the listener over the head with anything.
Essentially, that's more of what you get with the eight track, forty-two minute Giving Machines, With a recording process a bit unlike most artists (the group records their parts one piece at a time, writing their sections only after they've heard what's come before them), they mix a bit of shoegaze, a bit of post rock, and a bit of country into these woozy tracks. "Double Jointed" kicks things off with cello and guitar before some synth and percussion come and and chug things along steadily for almost seven minutes, moving through curling, pedal-steel touched refrains and more celebratory punctuations.
From there out, the group veers through a nicely varied batch of sounds, including the wispy "Recovering Australia" (which is almost all strings, piano and pedal steel) and the smooth instrumental chamber-pop of "Somersault," which builds from mellow melodic curls into a more tumbling piece fitting of the title. Those wondering of the groups unique ability to craft a unique cover should be more than sated with the gorgeous take on Cocteau Twins' "Heaven Or Las Vegas." Like many groups playing some version of post rock music, you can hear a little bit of between five and ten different groups (everyone from Explosions In The Sky to Notwist) in the music that Japancakes creates. With just a slight twist on the usual formula and their x-factor instrumental (pedal steel!), though, the group still manages to stand out amongst the crowded field. Giving Machines isn't anything that's going to get you to rock out, but it's about as warm an inviting as they come, and sometimes that's all you want.