Ikebana: When You Arrive There

In describing Ikebana's music, writers naturally will make much of the fact that the Japanese word refers to the art of flower arrangement, albeit with a twist: instead of the customary focus on the blooming flowers, Ikebana concentrates as much on other areas, such as stems and leaves. In other words, the focus is on the arrangement as a whole, its shape and form, and not just its most conspicuous detail. The Japanese female duo of Maki (a member of the Japanese shoegaze band Incence) and En bring a similar kind of attentiveness to the music they present under the Ikebana name on their mini-album When You Arrive There.

Vocals are an important element within their songs, but just as important are the stripped-down arrangements that support the singing. Though the music has roots in the shoegaze tradition, it would be more accurate to characterize it as stripped-down dreampop dominated by breathy female vocals and blurry electric guitars. Conventional rhythm elements are absent, a move that reinforces the project's minimalist aesthetic and enables the modest elements that are present to float freely within the recording's reverb-heavy soundfield.

A representative example of Ikebana's style, the dreamy “Alone” backs a soft and breathy vocal with electric guitar strums in a manner that suggests some distant connection to Jessica Bailiff. “Rose,” on the other hand, finds Ikebana in dreamscaping mode when ethereal vocal and guitar textures combine for six minutes of hazy entrancement. At seven minutes the longest song, “Ikebana” showcases the more adventurous side of the group, one where untethered fragments of hushed vocals and echo-laden guitars drift and intermingle freely within wide open spaces. It all adds up to a recording that, while short at thirty-one minutes, nevertheless impresses the listener with its beguiling experimental songcraft.

August-September 2013