One of those unexpected pleasures that you can only get from impulsively purchasing a CD because you liked the jacket, Mmm seems to be a singer-songwriter and participant in various bands and musical projects, but Safe Mode is a decidedly solo work and possessed of the sort of up-close intimacy you’d expect from that.
Sung in a mixture of Japanese and English, the music also refuses to sit obviously in any particular melodic tradition. Rabbit Hole, for instance, has a distinctly postpunkish, alt rock edge that offsets the whimsy that colours tracks like Monotone. Meanwhile, opening track Blue blossoms into a sort of pastoral psychedelia as it progresses, with the gradual introduction of flute and piano, and a rhythm disconcertingly at odds with the melody. A similar, faintly psychedelic breakdown occurs in The Return of Hamunaptra, while additional instruments subtly share space with less easily decipherable sounds on the Donovan-esque I’d Rather Be.
In fact, throughout Safe Mode, ambiguous sounds abound in its ambience, from the rattles and clicks that underscore Long Days with Television to the gentle rustle that might be tape hiss or simply the shifting of the musician’s clothes or duvet covers (this is an album that practically screams, “I was recorded in a bedroom!” at you). This low-key but nonetheless ever-present ambient sound only adds to the warm, organic feel that contrasts with the computer-derived title and artwork, reconceiving the “safe mode” as a psychological state, shut off from the screaming noise that tries to intrude on your peace.