Yama Warashi: an album of delusion and hope

10th November 2016

Title: Moon Egg

Label: Stolen Body

Bristol-based Japanese artist Yoshino Shigihara has a fanciful way with her words and music. For example, apparently (I say that because not all of the music here is sung in English), the  single from the album, Quagmire Moon, is about the moon becoming annoyed with smoke from a chimney because it is making it feel a bit strange. From that, you get the general feel of this album. Part of the arrangements take the form of Japanese folk but there’s also an African World music edge to some of the guitar with the odd free jazz (dis)construction thrown in to keep things interesting plus straighter jazz backing that only adds to the conglomeration.

Shigihara has collected a diverse array of musicians to add assistance to the album: Conrad Singh (Cloudshoes/The Evil Usses) plays guitar, Dan Truen (The Evil Usses) is on drums, both Lorenzo Pratti (The Evil Usses/Tezeta)  and Graeme Smith (Dubi Dolkzeck/Count Bobo) are on sax with bass via Lewis Fitzjohn (Dubi Dolkzeck).

There’s a lot going on here and not all of it hits the spot. Some of it lacks focus and sounds like a free-for-all-jam session which is more fun for the player than the listener. Diversity in style, rhythm and structure is not always a good thing. Some musicians think it’s an end to itself but here, the album often loses its way and, frankly, meanders into mediocrity. There are points of interest but, while the mastering is good and the arrangements are well structured, the creative direction is often a touch fuzzy and lacking in end product. Or is it just a cultural thing? Maybe I don’t ‘get it’ because I’m not Japanese? That’s entirely possible. I find the whole thing a bit wishy washy.

Vinyl fans need to know that this album will appear as a limited edition half gold/half blue edition of just 100 copies with another 200 as all gold.