Hanauo – Five Fold Finders For Flower Fish

Originally recorded about twenty years ago, but left unreleased until now, Five Fold Finders For Flower Fish is a beautiful album and a welcome exhumation from a long-gone band. There’s a dark, low-key psychedelic edge to the songs, trading in repetitive guitar lines and drawn out minimal grooves. Meanwhile, when vocals make an appearance, they press up quiet and close to the speaker, soft and intimate but delivered with a sort of cynical cat’s meow. That edge of cynicism, combined with the music’s understated sense of sonic space and comfort in its own pace, perhaps offers a clue at this album’s origins in the late 1990s, when the dying embers of Gen X rock and newly mature electronic music were exploring each other’s worlds with more sympathy and sensitivity than at perhaps any other time. On the surface, Hanauo are as rock as it comes, but they deploy acoustic instruments in ways reminiscent of electronic loops, while the use of samples and electronics tend to highlight the analogue, whether the hum of daily life or the babble, wriggle and squiggle of a synthesiser. All this comes together in a warm but understated atmosphere that taps into similar psychic ley lines to artists like Tortoise, the Beta Band and Mice Parade (whose Adam Pierce was originally lined up to be this album’s producer), not to mention the K Records vibe that for a long time around the turn of the millennium kept within finger’s reach of a segment of the Japanese indie scene.

Now that it’s finally seeing the light, Five Fold Finders For Flower Fish is all the more extraordinary a find for how fully formed the band come across, joyfully experimental without compromising their easy and accessible melodic sensibility. It sounds like very little else out there in the Japanese indie world right now, yet it manages to be at the same time immediately familiar and endlessly strange.

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