A psychedelic band that sometimes has pop and almost choral influences is usually a recipe for some type of Yes or ELP excess. Not so with Japanese legends Yura Yura Teikoku, whose trippy heart has room enough for experimentation and classic-pop grandeur. They always seem to make it work, and Hollow Me/Beautiful is no exception. This generous full-length/EP set covers a lot of sonic ground, but its stew never runs out of flavor, even at the bottom.
Singer/guitarist Shintaro Sakamoto keeps to the center on most of Hollow Me, the band’s tenth album. The songs are more subdued than usual, keeping his often crazed fretwork out of the mix in favor of a more atmospheric, haunting vocal driven sound. “Sweet Surrender,” Tender Animals” and the sax-featured opener “Ohayo Mada Yaro” are melancholy but fuzzy and soul-infused. The eerie female vocals make many of the tracks sound like outtakes from an Al Green session on Jupiter.
There are two versions of the song “Beautiful.” Whereas the EP version is shimmering retro power pop, the album take is percussion heavy with harmonies to make any ’50s boy band proud. Overall, the EP is more up-tempo, with “Miserable and Ashamed” a representative, glam-tastic example.
Yura Yura Teikoku can do no wrong because they effortlessly fall into greatness by keeping an ear open to the best of several genres. Hollow Me/Beautiful shows that curiosity still yielding strange but juicy fruits.