Ichiko Aoba’s greatest strength is her ability to create pockets of privacy. The Japanese singer-songwriter’s panting voice and placid guitar playing, often the only sounds you hear on her records, create a mesmerizing shroud that makes you feel like she’s playing to yourself. Aoba has been building a clientele in Japan since its beginnings in 2010 Kamisori Otome—Released when she was only 19 — but the one in 2018 qp was Aoba’s first small breakthrough; this put her in touch with listeners abroad and cracked the highest rated albums of the year by Rate Your Music. The two years between qp and its subsequent release gave people time to get acquainted with its old catalog, retroactively catapulting the 2013s 0 in first place for its own year. When his last album Adan windswept– now its first to be reissued internationally – received wide coverage from Western critics last year, established devotees were not surprised; it is the recognition they have always known it deserves. At Adan windswept, Aoba broadens her sound repertoire and brings collaborators into her vision, but she still clings to the melancholy imagination that allows her to imagine private universes.
Aoba conceptualized the project as the soundtrack to a film that only exists in his head, set on two fictional islands, one from which the central protagonist comes from and the other, teeming with flora and fauna. , towards which it flies. She started to write Adan windswept as a story first, intermittently showing his progress to his main collaborator and producer, television composer Taro Umebayashi. Umebayashi would begin to compose based on Aoba’s concepts, which in turn would influence what Aoba wrote next. The first single “Porcelain” was born from the idea of musically representing the weather conditions on the Kerama Islands, which Aoba visited while researching his script. One of the densest tracks on the album, it’s packed with lush strings, woods, high-pitched percussion, and Aoba’s feather-light vocals – sweet elements in themselves, but when they are. combined they become a tumultuous storm.
Elsewhere on record, Aoba shows restraint, reminding us that more can also be done with less. Umebayashi plays a piano number with almost improvised sounds on “Star Perfume”, the recording equipment so close to the instrument that you can hear the hammers banging the strings with each click of the keys. Recordings of birdsong on the pitch hang in the air and Aoba haunts the track with a distant voice, so low in the mix it looks like it could have been picked up in another room. Aoba returns to his own voice and his nimble-fingered classical guitar on “Sagu Palm’s Song,” but rather than a return to something familiar, it is austere punctuation; after hearing Aoba’s voice accompanied by a rich tapestry of changing elements over seven previous tracks, here it really sounds alone. As the story’s protagonist deepens her connection with nature, testifying to its beauty, destruction, and eventual rebirth, each track stands out as a chapter in this emotional journey.
Aoba’s imaginary film ends with “Luminescent Creatures”, the heroine who gives herself back to nature. First of all, Aoba sings, accompanied only by light strummed chords. Slowly, the strings begin to swell around her as the scene nears a dramatic end – as the final note rings out, only the sounds of ocean waves lapping a shore remain. He paints a striking image, inviting you to live inside the world Aoba imagined. In the Dreams and visions accompanying book to Adan windswept, she writes that she hoped her fantasies would immerse her deeper into the world she was striving to create each day. “Not knowing if I’m asleep or awake is a sign that I’m on the right track,” she said. As Ichiko Aoba continued to dream bigger, it makes sense that her music continues to expand to fill the space.
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