Yuco: I'm Living With Melancholy in the Fog
Flaming Pines

If there's a sadness running throughout I'm Living With Melancholy in the Fog, it's well-earned: Yuco members Masayoshi Miyazaki and Hiroshi Kobayash created the album in response to 2011's Fukushima tsunami and nuclear disasters. In Miyazaki's own words, “I was in an abyss of despair.” Instrumental duties are split between Miyazaki, who contributes piano, guitar, and sitar to the eight songs, and Kobayash, who threads liberal doses of field recordings into the material. I'm Living With Melancholy in the Fog undergoes a progressive shift over the course of its thirty-eight minutes, from opening pieces dominated by melodies of classical elegance voiced by piano and acoustic guitar to later settings featuring sitar that are more psychedelic and drone-like by comparison.

Two of the most memorable pieces are “I Broke Up Her Marriage,” which is elevated by a series of beautiful piano patterns that imbue the song with a graceful, lilting quality, and “Municipal Area,” whose organ patterns exude a propulsion and urgency reminiscent of Philip Glass. Light years removed from those pieces, “A Complete Failure,” adrift in a seven-minute sea of sitar strums, and the droning outro “Dream Time Away (Introduction)” add a rather psychedelic dimension to the album.

Field recordings play a prominent role, though some songs arguably would function better had their presence been de-emphasized; in some cases, they're more distraction than enhancement. “I Broke Up Her Marriage” certainly impresses well enough on its melodic terms and isn't improved by the inclusion of airplane noises; “Minphea,” an otherwise lovely pastoral setting of acoustic guitar playing, is also needlessly weakened by the presence of real-world noises. An argument can be made on behalf of the street sounds that figure as prominently in “Another Death, Another Life” as the chiming piano patterns, however, given that the real-world material evokes the settings of the 2011 disasters. It's also hard not to hear the water sounds coursing through “Don't Say a Word” as a tsunami allusion, an effect that displaces the listener's attention away from the classical guitar playing to the myriad sounds of traffic and people. Even so, a shift in the balance between musical elements and field recordings—that is, more of the former and less of the latter, or at least a subtler incorporation of the latter—might make for a more satisfying Yuco sound the next time around.

April 2013