Released on CD by PLOP (Japan) June 28, 2008.
Having been on the receiving end of saccharine injections from Meso Meso and Lullatone not too long ago, it’s easy to approach the music of female Japanese electronic songwriter/lo-fi producer types with a certain amount of prejudice – even trepidation, because there’s really only so much coy, whispery cuteness you can take before the stereotype sticks. Fortunately, Miko’s debut album for the excellent Plop imprint sidestep any such twee-isms, favouring a more full-blooded and strident tone that steers clear of close-up bedroom-recorded dynamics, instead favouring a grander, more stratospheric sound, as typified by the clattering post-pop of the title track, which opens this fine set of songs. One of the highlights on the album, ‘Jagajaga’ shimmers with a coarse Kevin Shields-like level of distortion texture. As so many things do at the moment – but hey, at least there’s no Fisher Price xylophone on it… oh hang on, there might be actually, but at least it’s being sufficiently scrunched into the blurry wall-of-fuzz production. Another winner, ‘Heartbreak Blues’ supplies some sublime strangeness, taking nebulous sonic backdrops and embedding Miko’s drifting vocal deep into their fluffy fabric – solid material throughout. Recommended.
The Milk Factory
Beyond the surface diverseness, a deep consistency and coherence can be heard in the debut effort from Miko, an artist dwelling in Yokohama, outside Tokyo. The pieces bear traces of someone who was willing to relinquish a certain control, to make herself the instrument and allow each self-contained event unfold according to its own internal dynamic.
Works like Kingdom and Ride On Time thus come across as much as natural processes as proper songs. The former features slow spasms of low rent keyboard noise and electronic wiggling, to which Miko adds compositional elements – sumptuous vocal harmonies, lazily strummed acoustic melodies, and dissipated cymbal and percussion sounds – that gives a bare overall structure.
This soundworld gets richer and more pressurized over the course of its duration, but then it also sinks into languid melodic continuum’s and almost epiphanic latticeworks of water-color textures and pregnant, buzzing fly atmospherics. In whichever direction Miko heads, however, she takes very small steps; and she shows a real skill in rendering significant the miniscule contrasts and nuances of her sound. For all their fragility and intimacy, for instance, her sounds are simultaneously hard and glistening as diamonds, and are precisely worked and carefully laid to rest in an uncluttered, expansive sound-field.
Hot off the press from Japan’s now infamous Plop imprint comes the work of Miko, in the form of a beautiful release called Parade. Situated somewhere between Lullatone, Sawako & Mole Harness, this charming release encompasses Jap-Pop sensibilities fused with a hint of experimental minimalism, almost folky at times, delicate, yet memorable, melodious and hooky, each track comes armed with a delicious production aesthetic. Miko’s voice is more forceful than Sawako’s, the delivery being more pronounced and less evanescent, more like a Japanese version of the Cocteau Twins’ Liz Fraser if that is a worthy comparison, and all the while accompanied with competent and insistent guitars. For sure, tracks like Merry Go Round and Red Song will remain in my player for some time, a reassuring backdrop to the tedium of my day, these songs (despite my lack of understanding of the lyrics) have impressed themselves upon my subconscious soul, such is the strength of the melodies..I only wish I could sing along purposefully, instead of just mindlessly groaning the tunes in my own tuneless way! Parade is one of those special albums that , like the Sugarcubes earlier works, have a charm, innocence, and uniqueness that has the potential to extend to a wider audience, especially tracks like Rocket, or Heartbreak Blues, that could easliy break into the UK’s indie territory. Later tracks like Ride on Time, or 6am, become much more atmospheric, and the voice almost becomes an extra textural element, adding to the overall depth and resonance of the tracks. Fine stuff indeed, and though I could never proclaim any expertise in the field of Jap Pop, this is going to be played on “repeat” for some time.
Mittlerweile ist es meistens so eine Sache mit den ordentlich gehypten Überraschungen aus Japan. Auch in unseren bescheidenen Elektronik-Wassern. Die Wahrheit ist, das die meiste Musik aus Japan einfach nichts taugt. Wenn niedlich, dann zu süß. Wenn experimentell, dann zu nervig. Bei Miko ist das nicht so, obwohr ihre Songs auch niedlich und ein bisschen experimentell sind. Aber: Die Mischung stimmt, die Songs sind gut durchdacht, das Sounddesign ist auf den Punkt und es ist alles quietschegelb. Nicht zu säuselig, nicht zu verhuscht. Alles sehr verträumt, ja, aber eben nicht ins Lächerliche gezogen. Feines Pop-Album.
Unter Japan-Pop stellt man sich ja gerne ein in Künstlichkeit und Kitsch kaum zu übertreffendes Zusammenspiel aus lächerlichen Kostümen und schlichtest aufgebauter Musik vor. Weil aber Japan so weit weg und uns von dort auch kaum etwas wirklich bekannt ist, unterscheiden wir inhaltlich nicht gerne innerhalb des Spektrums japanischer Popmusik. Miko zeigt: sollten wir aber. In „Parade“ vereint die Künstlerin verträumte Klangwelten mit ihrer klaren Stimme. Die einzelnen Tracks bieten Abwechslung und immer wieder neue Aspekte dieser Klangwelten, bilden aber gemeinsam ein stimmiges, ruhig fließendes, angenehmes Electronica-Album.