VA: Add To Friends
Akira Kosemura: It's On Everything
Australian musician Lawrence English recently established Someone Good as an ‘avant pop' label companion to his lauded ROOM40, and now inaugurates the new venture with two splendid recordings that, interestingly enough, cast a large spotlight on Japanese music-makers.
There definitely must be something in the Japanese water, as artists like Daisuke Miyatani, Yuichiro Fujimoto, and Lullatone have issued multi-coloured and texturally rich music on their individual releases, and now almost an entire CD's worth of Japanese (and Chinese) artists do the same on Add To Friends. Inspired by the idea of ‘friends sites' like MySpace and P2P networks, the compilation offers eighteen samplings of off-kilter pop by Qua, Midori Hirano, Akira Kosemura, the aforementioned Lullatone and Miyatani, and many others. Much of the album, like the songs by Ytamo (“Kylie ( Hong Kong )”) and Trico! (“Candle and Pechka”), traffics in a breezy and cheesy, ultra-melodic bedroom style where toy instruments, melodicas, pianos, crude electronics, field elements, and warbling vocals collide, though there are exceptions to that rule, like Miyatani's peaceful acoustic guitar setting “Docoiku.” Lullatone's sparkling overture “Wake Up Call” starts things off brightly before Tenniscoats dusts off its recorders and guitars for a gleeful romp. Some tunes appeal immediately, like Small Colour's dreamy instrumental “A Fat Bud,” Shugo Tokumaru's “Wedding,” which frames a high-spirited hoedown with melancholy banjo-based episodes, and Eddie Marcon's “Dust Dance,” whose soothing vocals are boosted by lovely soprano sax soloing. Those familiar with Caroline's “Bicycle” might be disarmed at first by Lullatone's beat-based remix but one warms to it after repeated listens. Similarly, the vocals in Steal Steal Ground's “Bad Waves of Paranoia (Part 1)” and The Pancakes' “Jane and Jenny” seem slightly off-key but one warms to them too, despite the rather vinegary taste. Overall, though, Add To Friends impresses as a superb label debut.
At the core of Kosemura's It's On Everything are lovely piano-based compositions whose alternately pretty and melancholy melodies are embedded within rich textures assembled from field elements and nature sounds. The material is so evocative, one could easily imagine his piano being played in his backyard where sounds of water, birds, children, and insects are so close by they're also picked up by the recording equipment. Percussive pops suggest the spatter of raindrops in “Orgel” while electronics mimic the buzzing of insect swarms in “Unknown.” Perhaps most representative of the album's bucolic style is “Solace” which unearths a dusty old piano from a long-forgotten attic. Kosemura doesn't hew to a one-dimensional template, however: “Embraced Time mf... ”: jarringly juxtaposes dreamy piano melodies with the agitated electronic stutter, and “It's on Everything” features burbling keyboard patterns reminiscent of American minimalism. It's not a perfect album—rain sounds pour forth so heavily in “Perpetuity,” the piano sounds like it's on the verge of drowning, and the album's placid ambiance is compromised in the closer “Coastline” by extroverted beat clatter and boisterous electronics—but it's overall a more than satisfying addition to the label's catalogue.