The third of five Fukuoka-based artists in this review of 2016, Sonotanotanpenz are an unclassifiable duo of two women called Hitomi, who make fragile, offbeat, largely acoustic music that always feels on the verge of falling apart, woven together with intricate yet powerful creative threads. They share some background with post-rockers Macmanaman thanks to Hitomi Itamura’s having played with Macmanaman bassist Takeshi Yamamoto in the now mostly defunct progressive pop band ruruxu/sinn. Nevertheless, Sonotanotanpenz could not be further apart from their ultra-amplified, maximalist contemporaries.
Instead, what Sonotanotanpenz produce exists at a nexus between folk, hip hop and a sort of naive, K Records-style indie psychedelia, these approaches brought together by the recurring device of the two Hitomis’ overlapping vocals. On tracks like Tea, Map and Bagpipe, the vocals stand almost entirely alone, with only the most minimal percussion or synth backdrops, with Moriwaki’s languid, disaffected rapping interweaving with Itamura’s looping melodic phrases. The opening Cave is much more of a conventional song, with a melody winding out from two simple, alternating acoustic guitar chords, with she closing A Farm and the Universe a similarly affecting, low-key acoustic escapade. The title track is the real standout though, starting out with a similarly minimal chord pattern that the duo complicate as the song progresses, their vocals slipping back and forth between countermelody and harmony. It sounds like almost nothing else out there, yet at the same time there’s an arresting, timeless sort of familiarity that suggests it might actually be an understated nascent classic.