Three years ago, Japancakes was near the top of the Athens music heap. After the release of its second full length, The Sleepy Strange, the loosely knit, long-form orchestral rock collective was the highest selling band on the college town's Kindercore imprint and had garnered favorable reviews from national press outlets like Spin, Rolling Stone and Newsweek. Three years have passed, Kindercore went out of business and Japancakes put out its third album, Waking Hours, to almost no attention.
"It's tough when the band actually likes the record — they think it's our best record," says the band's founder Eric Berg. "It's a rarity for us."
Japancakes' ruminations — subversive patterns and tones that play out over several minutes — need to be heard in its entirety. Waking Hours as an overall album is possibly the band's most consistently captivating work. Its members improvised contributions to each track at separate solo studio sessions. John Neff's weeping pedal steel and Heather McIntosh's swooning cello add the highlights to Berg's slow-moving, simple chord progressions, what he calls "funeral marches."
With Kindercore gone, Berg chose to release the record on Athens-based label Warm. But, to this point, he has been unhappy with the results. He says Waking Hours was not publicized on the label's website prior to its release, and it's not selling well. To Berg, the band's receding profile is partly due to the inactivity of Warm's promotion, as well as the two years the band took off between 2002 and 2004. He is hoping to get back into the studio this winter to begin to rectify the situation.
"We need an album to come out this spring," says Berg, who mentioned that the band is looking for a new label. "That would be the ideal thing to happen." Japancakes plays the Echo Lounge, Thurs., Dec. 2. 9 p.m. $7.