Tag Archives: Masami Takashima

Top 20 Releases of 2017: No.1 – Miu Mau – Drawing

miu mau - drawing

CD/download, VYBE Records, 2017

A full-length collection from Kyushu indie supergroup Miu Mau to follow up 2008’s Design was always going to be a contender for album of the year, and Drawing really is excellent, exceeding its now long-distant predecessor in both the range and depth of its songwriting.

Followers of the band will quickly recognise most of the material on Drawing, with the core of the album made up of a trio of singles and EPs that the band have put out over the past few years. The only brand new material comes in the form of new songs Ryuukou-iro no Pallette and Mishiranai no Basho de, while Monochrome appears in a new, mostly Japanese language version as well as a new remix at the end of the album. All that is to say that if you have been following Miu Mau over the past few years, you’ll already know that basically everything on this album is beautiful, sparse, sophisticated, melancholy, synth-led new wave pop.

Of the new material, Ryuukou-iro no Pallette is the most immediately striking, with the stabs of noise that interrupt the song’s sparse, piano-led melody and harmonies, making explicit the note of dissonance that subtly underscores much of the material on Drawing. The source of that dissonance is most usually Hiromi Kajiwara’s guitar, which is delivered with a harsh, metallic reverb that contrasts with Masami Takashima’s lush washes of synth and pristeen vocals. On the new wave Asiatica of Future Classic / Mirai no Classic and the minimalistic dance-pop News, Kajiwara’s guitar cuts throught he songs, the strokes of her plectrum scratching percussively against the sweet melodies, while on songs like Iro wo Matou the guitar adding texture to the music like an additional voice wandering through the background of the song.

There’s a sparseness to Miu Mau’s music that it would have been tempting to try to fill out in pursuit of a more commercially pleasing sound. Similar bands like the now departed Merpeoples have tried something like that and lost something of their own identity in the process, so it’s to Miu Mau’s credit that over the years they have always kept the spindly, dissonant aspects of their music in play, all recognisably within what the three members can comfortably reproduce live together.

Of the Monochrome remix, it’s a decent take on the song, but unnecessary and largely out of step with the atmosphere of the album, but it also feels unnecessarily querulous to complain about being given too much. The remix is there if you want it, but if you don’t, you can be more than satisfied with the collection of nine immaculate avant-pop songs that remains. Album of the year without a doubt.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Albums, Reviews

Top 20 Releases of 2016: No.5 – Masami Takashima – Fake Night

MASAMI TAKASHIMA - FAKE NIGHT

CD/cassette, Twin Ships, 2016

Fake Night is singer-songwriter Masami Takashima’s first album under her own name, although for a long time she has been perorming under the name Coet Cocoeh, first in Fukuoka (yes, another Fukuoka connection) and in her adopted home of Takamatsu in Shikoku. Fake Night isn’t really a debut, with the song Tsukiyo no Dance Party having already appeared on Coet Cocoeh’s 2015 album Glass Collage and an older version of the closing In a Fog dating back even earlier. The same blend of pop balladry and distant club vibes informs the songwriting too, but there is nonetheless a sense of a new start about it.

It’s a richer album from a production point of view for a start, with Takashima’s synth bass throbbing powerfully in contrast with the spacious piano that it shares the album with as its twin dominant defining sounds. At her heart a pop songwriter, Takashima nevertheless delights in juxtaposing these two elements, with the chanson-like piano ballad Romantics following right hot on the heels of the aforementioned synth-heavy Tsukiyo no Dance Party, while the beautiful Somewhere bounces back and forth between sparse piano chords and a sudden intrusion of thundering bass. Cosmic Sea, meanwhile, sets a simple, looping piano line over a lackadaisical club backdrop.

Piano aside, Takashima’s rich singing voice is the other most distinctive aspect of her work, and a common thread linking Fake Night to both Coet Cocoeh and her band Miu Mau. Here, shorn of the harmonies provided by her Miu Mau bandmates, she stretches her range to cover subdued rapping/spoken word on Cosmic Sea and the just-short-of-melodramatic tour de force performance that is Romantics. There’s a world-weary quality to Takashima’s voice that ensures that even uptempo songs like the bouncy On the Town Square/Machi no Hiroba de are imbued with a faintly melancholy, dreamlike quality.

This way of these disparate elements — piano balladry, house music, reggae, electro, hop hop — are integrated with such assurance and such a distinctive atmosphere is perhaps what makes Masami Takashima such an interesting musician. She’s one of those artists who creates a world of her own through her music — a beach, illuminated by the setting sun from the west and the lights from a party at a nearby beach house to the east: where you’re a bit lonely but never completely alone.

1 Comment

Filed under Albums, Reviews