About You - digital cover large Boketto

The last time I heard a groovy jazz-rock band who named themselves after a Japanese word with no English translation – oh wait, that’s never happened before. Enter Boketto. Apparently roughly translated, it means ‘The act of gazing vacantly into the distance, without thinking.’ Which is a pretty cool name for a band who produces smooth, soulful, jazzy groove-based music.

The act of gazing vacantly…

Does Boketto describe striking imagery, thus inspiring an imagined “gaze”? I wouldn’t really say so. It’s the vacant part that’s most important here. Their debut album, About You, feels very daydreamy – as if these are thoughts and sounds that occur only when the mind relaxes its focus and concentration somewhat. When fairly long instrumental sections occur on the album, and you hardly notice the lack of vocals, that surely means something important. The strong forward momentum created by the base groove and intriguing, yet not over-sophisticated lead melodies carry a listener forward, towards a slightly hazy narrative.

Boketto All I want

…into the distance…

About You isn’t stationary, standing still music. Even though it might sound pretty relaxing, the constant bass groove keeps a forward momentum going, and smooth guitars and vocals keep everything flowing. Although some tracks are long (River Truth, at 6:52, and Open Your Eyes at 5:38, for example), the songs are sensibly structured and unpredictable enough to not grow boring. And it definitely sounds optimistic and hopeful, with a subdued excitement for what’s coming next.

…without thinking

Boketto‘s lyrics never demand the listener’s attention, and there’s probably not much to miss there, as it clearly isn’t the focus of the music. It’s not as intellectual or intimidating as a lot of music with the word “jazz” in the description tend to be. The vocal delivery itself is fascinating, being used as an equal to anything else on the recordings, albeit less strong, steady, and confident than the actual instruments, which are pretty much flawless.

And it might be an album that lends itself to more of a subconscious interpretation. Lead singer and songwriter Callum Kuhl says of the album title: “A lot of the lyrics have non-specific metaphors in them. While they mean a lot to me, I hope the feeling people get from the album is one that affirms their search for themselves”. And I definitely agree. If ever there was an album that’s open to meaning being created by the listener, it’s About You.

Boketto‘s About You succeeds is being something different. Which is a pretty rare attribute in any newly released music – especially debut albums. It’s a mix of easy, accessible music with a fair share of intricacy and sophistication, without shying away from mainstream ideas like rock and pop music. At times it’s reminiscent of something like Carlo Mombelli, and at other times it’s more comparable to Alt-J. There are also hints at classic pop, Led Zeppelin and Thom Yorke sticking its head out occasionally. About You is fresh, relatively eclectic, yet collected, and certainly wildly evocative.

Boketto is a five-piece band from Cape Town. Their debut album, About You, is available on iTunes, and you can check the band out on Facebook, Twitter, and Soundcloud.