Cokiyu: Mirror Flake

VA: Echod

If you just can't get enough of the placid, electronic-folk soundscaping currently pouring forth from all corners of the globe (Japan seemingly more than any other locale), you'll no doubt want to add Echod to your library. It bears mentioning, however, that the two-disc set was created to make Japanese listeners aware of independent artists from Europe, USA, UK, Australia, and South America, which therefore helps explain why The Boats, Lori Scacco, Montag, Hulk, Ljudbilden & Piloten, and Florencia Ruiz are among those contributing. Regrettably, Flau (curated by Yasuhiko Fukuzono aka aus) issued a mere 100 copies of this inaugural label release for public consumption so by now they're most assuredly gone.

Spreading twenty-five songs over two discs (many new and exclusive), the 100-minute collection includes enough acoustic guitars, pianos, electronic textures, and natural field elements to keep you mesmerized for weeks on end. Standouts include Ametsub's immersive “Faint Dazzlings (short ver.),” Fedaden's (Denis Fedabeille) melancholy wonderland “Grandiose et Triste,” Liz's lustrous waltz “Adieu L'amour,” MOTORO FAAM's electronically-drenched pianisms (“Circle Shift”), and Ljudbilden & Piloten's dreamily rustic “Pen On Paper.” Beguiling instrumental evocations also come from Chipoe, GLIM (Andreas Berger), Part Timer, Miyauchi Yûri, Shuta Hasunuma, Aerosol (Rasmus Rasmussen), Bexar Bexar, and aus, while atmospheric vocal settings include willowy enchantment from Squares On Both Sides (Daniel Buerkner) and Britta Persson, dreamy pitter-patter by The Boats (vocals by Chris Stewart) and HOOD, and Ruiz's hypnotically exotic “Viviré.” Echod isn't perfect—I hear about ten minutes or so of lesser quality—but 90% is as good a batting average as one could hope for.

Cokiyu doesn't appear on Echod but the Japanese chanteuse would have blended in seamlessly. Mirror Flake, Flau's first artist album, offers ten samplings of the delicious bedroom pop occasionally heard on the compilation. Cokiyu, who sometimes sings with aus, creates her hazy electronic songs with toy piano, music box, and Ueda Takayasu's guitars but it's her feathery whisper that most characterizes her lulling style. The graduate of the Sonology Department of Kunitachi College of Music in Tokyo has been creating works using Max/MSP since her college days, so brings a well-developed degree of skill to the album's delicate material. The softly cooing voice and supple textures lend the music a gauzy quality, and intensify its heavenly quality. Songs like “Mirror Flake,” “Piano and Frog,” and “Star Takes a Rest” are sonically lush and melodically enchanting but Mirror Flake isn't only about pop. There are ambient soundscaping interludes (“Gdb,” “Org”) and, though vocal-based, “In the Air” is broodingly atmospheric. Despite its title, “Storm” is a lullaby with glockenspiels, music boxes, and toy pianos providing the childlike colour and her cooing voice the serenading element. Imagine Caroline pushed to an even dreamier and more entrancing degree and you'll have a fairly accurate impression of Mirror Flake's sound.

November 2007