A peek at the cover art of Jinnouchi Power’s recently released album, Kaleidokoi, offers a visual clue to the textured, hypnotic jazz/rock tracks that lie inside. The brightly colored koi encircled by clouds and lightning bolts look like whimsical madness, but with a collective goal. On first listen, Kaleidokoi evokes a feeling of curated chaos, in the best sense, with each song taking unexpected twists and turns.
Based in the Sherman Hill neighborhood of Des Moines, the band has worked on the 11-track project for almost eight years. Patrick MacCready, Jinnouchi Power’s lead songwriter, describes the album as “soothing, but rock and roll,” a fitting portrayal for the web of soundscapes intertwined within the rock anthem hooks and folky sadness. Though common genre tags would be indie pop rock, experimental folk or even psychedelic rock, my personal favorite, and possibly the most accurate, would be the category of “nerd rock.” The album is made up of a combination of impressive technical ability, quirky song inspirations, and an unapologetic nod to specialized yet odd subjects, such as kung fu.
Jinnouchi Power makes certain there’s never a dull second in Kaleidokoi from the moment it begins. Sprinkled throughout are crunchy guitar hooks, intricate picking and quirky lyrics that are guaranteed to keep you guessing. For example, the second track on the album “Motion Blue” lulls you into a trance-like vibe, then catapults into an energetic, solid rock outro, sudden yet delightful. “The Wind” flows in and out of a surprising two-step groove between crackling electric guitar transitions, ending with a pop chant catchy enough to get stuck in your brain for days.
The album feels intentional, with every musical decision seemingly deliberate, even amongst its playful humor. As the band states on their website, each verse of the song “Kung Fu” was inspired by a different martial arts film, an interesting challenge for any lyricist. I couldn’t help but laugh at the snarky line, “It’s not your technique, it’s you,” followed by the repeated refrain of “I love kung fu,” words you rarely, if ever, attribute to a song.
“Wedding Song” begins with sweet melancholy, “I wear my heart on my sleeve, oh what a fool am I / Now I roam the streets at night like a cynical werewolf” — an absurd twist but weirdly relatable. The surprises continue with an introduction of saxophone on the ominously titled, “Get in the Van,” an eclectic instrumental track, reminiscent of experimental jazz.
Of course, no album would be complete without a ballad, a spot which “Kale & Eggs” beautifully fulfills, combining intricate guitar picking and spacious strings. The song includes the most poignant lyrics of the album: “And pay the price of art with your own skin / the shifting eyes will generalize, your self expression will be marginalized,” a jarring reality of the vulnerability required to create something from nothing. But Kaleidokoi masterfully conveys its voice, lawless and raw, with a dazzling result.
This article was originally published in Little Village’s January 2023 issues.