Cuushe: Red Rocket Telepathy

Listeners seduced by the vocal-enriched dreamscapes of Cokiyu and Tujiko Noriko should find Red Rocket Telepathy, the debut album by Kyoto-based Cuushe, just as captivating, even if an unsettling undercurrent is often audible within the latter's dream pop. The album gets off to a serenading start with the electronic lullaby “From the Window on the Plane,” all sweetly transporting synthesizer melodies and wistful wordless vocals. But that instrumental opener isn't as representative of Cuushe's style as what comes after: “Summer Night Sketch,” an expansive setting that contrasts her fragile vocalizing and warm synthetics with the grime of city-based field recording sounds, and “Swimming in the Room,” which pairs her breathy whispers with an unusual industrial-inflected backing. Three songs into Red Rocket Telepathy, it's clear that a key quality characterizing Cuushe's sound is the contrast between the songs' lighter-than-air vocal delivery and the harder-edged arrangements (a contrast not unique to Cuushe, however, as it'soccasionally heard in some of Björk's music too). As such, the dirge “Simple Complication” juxtaposes her feathery voice with the industrial churn of a backing suggestive of factory machinery. There are also moments, however, when Cuushe allows the gentler side of her music to come to the fore, as “Into the Future” demonstrates when it augments her lovely vocal melody with a generally restrained backing. Cuushe cites Board of Canada and L'altra as inspirations but Björk stands out as an even stronger inspiration on many of Red Rocket Telepathy's eleven songs. Having said that, the album's most powerful setting, “Strange Animal,” exudes an epic and emotive character that is rather L'altra-like in spirit. In all, the fifty-four-minute collection makes for a natural addition to the flau catalogue, and an especially complementary one to Cokiyu's 2007 Mirror Flake.

February 2010