Cuushe: Butterfly Case

Cuushe's Butterfly Case features the kind of breathy vocal pop we've come to associate with artists such as Cokiyu, Caroline, and similar artists on labels such as Kitchen., flau, and mü-nest. But Mayuko Hitotsuyanagi's album also ventures into more aggressive territory, a smart move on her part as it presents Cuushe as an artist of greater range than it would have had she packed the set solely with ethereal meditations on the order of “Steamy Mirror” (as good as it is). Arriving four years after her debut full-length Red Rocket Telepathy (and subsequent Girl You Know That I Am Here But The Dream EP), the melodious, fifty-minute follow-up presents a solid argument in support of Hitotsuyanagi's songwriting and arranging gifts. With respect to the latter, she builds her songs into gauzy dreampop using synths, drum machines, guitars, and ethereal vocals.

The album begins strongly with the pulsating pop of “Sort of Light,” with Hitotsuyanagi's airy voice buoyed by an insistent kick drum pulse and surging chords and, like the best kind of sugar rush, the song itself an entrancing sampling of hushed, melodic dreampop. Variations on the theme follow, with subtle contrasts in dynamics accounting for the biggest difference between the ten songs. Resplendent and effervescent are words that spring to mind as one listens to Butterfly Case—or perhaps it would be more accurate to say one surrenders to the album, given the seductive potency of swirling enchantments like “Twilight” and “I Miss You.”

On production grounds, Butterfly Case sometimes calls to mind Cocteau Twins, with wall-of-sound confections such as “Butterfly” and “I Love You” exuding a wide-screen, blurry quality reminiscent of 4AD-styled shoegaze. The album reaches a mid-album peak during the latter song when Cuushe throws the title phrase back and forth across a hazy bed of house pulses and opaque guitar textures, but it's hardly the album's only memorable moment. Regardless of whether she's expressing longing (“I Miss You”) or regret (“Lost My Way”), Cuushe's songs make a strong impression on the listener.

November 2013