Half a decade since the release of their 2007 debut, Zatracenie and the remix stint of Coctura in 2009, Japanese dream pop duo Matryoshka finally mustered up their second full-length album. Released on December 12, 2012 by Japan’s Virgin Babylon Records, Laideronnette can be simply described as a misty cinematic compilation dominated by melancholic strings, but lacking in development. With the opening track, the album takes a woozy inhale and prolongs its release with no palpable climax.

In its own right, Laideronnette is a successful rendition of dream pop; characteristic soaring drone and windy melodies are effectively present, leaving plenty of room to articulate with your imagination. Vocalist Calu’s whispering nevertheless seems to be more incoherent than anything heard on Zatracenie, while producer Sen delivers themes that only sound recycled in what should be a surreal and adventurous progeny of post-rock.  After five years, Matryoshka has failed to deliver material that represents musical growth or makes a significant dent in the genre. The problems lie in tedious composition and indiscernible lyrics that are intended to tell a story.

It is difficult to make out Calu’s quiet English, the content of which is truthfully tempting to dismiss in favour of hearing the vocals as simply an atmospheric element. Given the album’s self-contained context, this should not be the case. With song titles like Noctambulist and Instant Immortal,  the inability to discern what Calu is singing about only harms any potential story that could be lurking below the surface.

Watch Matryoshka’s music video for the “Laideronnette” opening track, “Monotonous Purgatory”:

Opening with Monotonous Purgatory, Matryoshka stays consistent with their 2007 album, whose title translates from Polish as Perdition. While it is an acceptable introduction to the album through its use of sparse texture, Monotonous Purgatory develops tentatively and with a more conclusive tone that would have seemed better at the end of the album than as its exposition.

The second track, Noctambulist, all too reminiscent of Final Fantasy piano overtures, drifts with feather-lightness until the instrumentals overpower moments where Calu’s voice should have expanded and been given the opportunity to hold notes for a complete sound. Summer’s night-time ambience splices the track at the midpoint, raising some hope for a strong build. The tempo unfortunately remains the same, sucking the power out of the rock infusion that wraps up the track. Sacred Play Secret Place is hushed and sweet, with butterfly dips in Calu’s delivery, but the monochromatic instrumentals feel like they have been heard too many times before.

If any track can testify to Matryoshka’s suitability for melancholic cinema, it is sure to be Instant Immortal. Barely audible piano tiptoes into a screening chamber where you can hear the fluttering of a vintage projector. By this point however, the mid-song ambient break and the slow climb towards the end have dragged out their effect, and Calu’s unchanging silvery murmur does nothing to rescue the track. From here on in, Matryoshka stagnates through Cut All Trees, Butterfly Soup, and Hallucinatory Halo. What started as soothing ambiance gnaws its way into irritating repetition. A dainty shadow of East Asian influence is heard on the album’s eighth track, Oblivion, where the violin curves in a characteristic manner, however rarely. Niedola, closely translated from Polish as Misery, certainly sounds the part, since, as the album’s ninth track, it offers nothing substantially different from anything preceding it. Gentle Afternoon wraps up with fatigue at just under an hour.

Calu (vocals) and Sen (producer) of Matryoshka.  (Source: Last.fm)

Calu (vocals) and Sen (producer) of Matryoshka.(Image source: Last.fm)

The only salvation is to isolate one track to experience the fragile atmosphere that Matryoshka does have the ability to create. A comprehensive listening of Laideronnette will reveal no innovative progression between tracks, nor will it evoke the essence of a journey that is possible through variation. It is a superficial atmosphere that appears to be the primary concern for Matryoshka in their 2012 album. Considering also the ambiguous appropriation of Russian folk art and Polish vocabulary, as well as an unintelligible connection with Marie Catherine d’Aulnoy’s 17th century fairytale “The Green Serpent” from which Laideronnette takes its name, Matryoskha opportunistically appropriates fantastic images yet their technical delivery fails at justifying their use.

There is no passionate development or mounting climax, resulting in a spacious but utterly forgettable landscape. Perhaps Laideronnette would have been a more effective album had it integrated a diversity of textures more relevant to the experimental nature of dream-pop. Otherwise, Matryoshka delivers another page in dream-pop that avoids even being dog-eared.


To learn more about Matryoshka:

Official Facebook:   Matryoshka

Last.fm:   Matryoshka