If there’s a haunting, apocalyptic soundtrack for the end of times, then World’s End Girlfriend’s sprawling albums would most probably fit the bill. Characterized by atmospheric post-rock and abrasive, glitchy electronica, his songs are a brash collision of emotions, wavering wildly between grandiose to unsettling. These are all the sounds associated with what I would imagine is an impending end to everything – a fitting interpretation of our depraved, precarious existence.
Fortunately for us, World’s End Girlfriend, the moniker of multi-instrumentalist Katsuhiko Maeda, has been releasing records over the past two decades, which is more than enough material to listen to when hunkered in an underground bunker (or under the sheets, enveloped by the persistent glow of doomscrolling). Resistance & the Blessing, the eleventh (!!!) album by World’s End Girlfriend, continues the musician’s propensity for sweeping, post-rock experiments, punctured by harsh, glitchy effects. It also stretches to a staggering two and half hours, broken into 35 tracks.
But wait! While albums this long aren’t really that conventional these days, even among the oeuvre of post-rock records, World’s End Girlfriend does have a knack for keeping his music varied and moving, despite its length. There are moments that will wrestle your attention back when your mind wanders off amidst a comfortingly familiar stretch. That’s because Resistance & the Blessing is comprised of orchestral arcs that are tantalizingly smeary with synths and whispered words, rife with textures and crescendos. His songs eventually coalesced into a cinematic, idiosyncratic album, and it’s evident that it has been so seamlessly and meticulously arranged, with nary a bar that feels out of line amidst the layers of instrumentation.
The music of World’s End Girlfriend, thankfully, resists the dichotomy of heightened emotional stakes versus the subdued lull of post-rock. Thus his melodies hardly, if ever, collapse under their immensity, with songs changing its cadence at unexpected intervals. The opening track to Resistance & the Blessing, “unPrologue Birthday Resistance”, begins quietly and builds its tension steadily, only to have only to have its climax warped beyond recognition by aberrant noises, as if distorted by crackling stereos. Another track, “Eve”, breaks up its plaintive melody with dissonant-sounding effects, with the song gradually disintegrating into chaos, backed by erratic, almost off-beat drums.
And then there’s “MEGURI”, a song that ostensibly hews closely to the post-rock formula, but sustains its momentum by heaping layers of static within its bars. This is followed by “IN THE NAME OF LOVE”, an optimistic, heart-pumping din that descends into a beat-heavy, electronic soundscape that makes the track almost danceable. Interspersed between these tracks are shorter, fleeting pieces that last barely a minute long – a gentle, welcomed reprieve from the intensity of these tracks (despite their macabre names like “Slaughterhouse”, “Torture in heaven” and “Petal full of holes”). Truly, there’s no guessing what the next track will transport you to, but they all conjure the vast spectrum of the human experience: happiness, relief, despair, fear, rage, uncertainty, and much, much more.
Like many of his previous albums, Resistance & the Blessing feels just as emotionally resplendent, his orchestral music filtered through the monolithic walls of static to produce a very specific brand of beautiful, ambient post-rock. It’s a work that highlights the sheer musicality and creativity of World’s End Girlfriend at play. Imagine creating eleven albums – and these don’t even include his scoring work for films – without resorting to post-rock cliches. If you’re ever stuck in a bunker, condemned to reminiscing about better days, I can’t think of another more apt, discordant soundtrack than this.
Khee Hoon Chan is a freelance writer from Singapore, and writes for publications like Polygon, Edge Magazine and Bullet Points. Ask them about the weather at @crapstacular