Rima Kato: Faintly Lit

Many years of musical experiences preceded the release of Faintly Lit, the latest mini-album from Japanese songstress Rima Kato. During the late-‘90s, she played in Strrows, a lo-fi folk outfit that issued some CDs in Japan before splitting up in 2001. In the years that followed, she continued to create music and released the mini-album Harmless in 2012 before gathering the folk-pop material for her flau debut.

Its eight songs are grounded by her acoustic guitar and fragile wisp of a voice, though they're also subtly embellished with other sounds, among them flute, piano, alto recorder, and electric guitar. Kato sweetens the melancholy lilt of “I Write Letter” with an organ's warmth, and the quietly buoyant mood of “Life is Warm” is similarly bolstered by an instrumental touch, in this case a glockenspiel, whose sparkle forms a pleasing counterpoint to Kato's joyful vocal.

Singing in English, her lyrics convey an innocence and charm that suits the tone and style of the music. There's an appealingly lo-fi quality to the production that enhances the intimate character of the material; in that regard, it's easy to imagine oneself sitting in Kato's bedroom as a privileged witness to the various run-throughs of the songs.

Though a title such as “Dark Clouds” might imply disturbing undercurrents are present within her music, the carefree lilt of the song itself suggests otherwise, especially when she accents the material with child-like recorder and glockenspiel tinkles, and it's fitting that the recording ends with something as turbulence-free as “Ferris Wheel.” At twenty-five minutes, Faintly Lit is a modest release, to say the least, yet it also possesses an undeniable charm.

February 2015