Released on CD by Someone Good (Australia) in 2010.
Australia’s Lawrence and Rebecca English have spent the past few years proving that the everyday can be avant-garde. The husband-and-wife pair run Someone Good, while Lawrence curates sister imprint Room40, a preeminent experimental label that has recently put out records by the ambient-inclined Grouper and Tim Hecker. Someone Good takes a more modest, domestic view of gorgeous textural abstraction, releasing music often by Japan-based artists: avant-twee couple Lullatone, piano minimalist Akira Kosemura, Tenniscoats offshoot Nikasaya. This is simple yet elegant stuff.
As Miko, Tokyo-based Rie Mitsutake assembles vividly mic’d piano, acoustic guitar, and off-kilter percussion– along with field recordings and her own hushed vocals– into languidly immersive sound worlds that make the familiar wonderfully strange. Her 2008 debut, Parade, successfully introduced the basic elements of Miko’s developing aesthetic, but that effort placed a greater emphasis on glimmering electronics and at times used near-shoegaze levels of ear-splitting distortion. Sophomore album Chandelier, like Kosemura’s excellent Polaroid Piano from last year, takes a turn toward the organic. The result shapes restrained, homespun instrumentation into something at once quaint and futuristic.
Someone Good is billing Miko’s latest as a “new kind of folk music,” and that’s apt. Bird-like squawks and delicate vocals transcend their potential cutesiness to attain a sort of ascetic grace (“Sea House”); Talk Talk-inclined drums gently splash behind indie pop plinks and plonks (“Kikoeru”); saxophones drift past thrumming acoustic guitar (“New Town”). When Miko sings the word “America”, on the hypnotic track of the same name, she conjures up a faraway place vastly different from the one I know. Compared with traditional folk song, there’s certainly more attention paid to what words and sounds sugges t rather than their literal meanings. (Apparently Miko chose the title Chandeliers as much for its spoken sound as for its associations with light and warmth). But there’s also a sense of intimacy, of basic human connection, on which the old avant-garde might look with disdain. That would be missing the point.
From the moment the first track, “Sea House”, plays, it’s readily apparent that Miko’s Chandelier is one lovely, radiant collection of music truly worthy of being described with the word “beautiful”. Featuring the performer also known as Rie Mitsutake exhaling heavenly melodies as a birdlike sound-loop calls behind her voice and gentle acoustic guitar playing, the Japanese singer-songwriter’s second album delivers several fetching variations on the album’s basic gentle-folk aesthetic. Even the sound of her fingers sliding across her guitar frets is as gorgeous as her voice and the chiming percussion in the background. As bright and finely-crafted as the object which gives the album its name, Chandelier is a brief listen, but one that’s alluring enough to warrant an instant replay.
Entirely endearing, downbeat Japanese pop-tronica from Miko, following the tiny waves made by her Plop release. ‘Chandelier’ is as gorgeously cottony and sweet as anything we’ve heard from her yet, drifting between folksy Boats-esque ditties like ‘New Town’, replete with melodica and twinkling keys, to the hushed bliss of ‘Kikoeru’, and floating dreampop of ‘Cherries’. Lovely.
Textura (c/o Will Long)
Having been introduced to Miko’s music from her exceptional debut, Parade on PLOP in 2008, her new album Chandelier on the Australian imprint Someone Good possibly even surpasses her debut, with its own natural evolution of sound. Even through its relatively short duration, Chandelier is nothing less than heartfelt and beautiful, all while seeming effortless. Possibly the most remarkable thing is knowing that it all came from one person, a multi-instrumentalist, vocalist, and visual artist. With its tender, amiable nature, Chandelier is a captivating and honest portrait of how sometimes simplicity and restraint can be the strongest and most beautiful.