VA: Little Things

Geskia: Silent 77

More splendid music from one of our favourite labels, Japanese or otherwise, Little Things follows Echod as Flau's second compilation and complements recent full-lengths by Cokiyu, Part Timer, and Dale Berning. In keeping with the title, the collection's theme centers on “tiny homemade music” that exudes a pronounced acoustic flavour and organic character. The seventeen diverse songs by artists familiar (Jasper Leyland, Hood, The Boats, F.S. Blumm, Radicalfashion, Lori Scacco) and lesser-known originate from multiple corners of the world: on the one hand, there's the Tokyo-based female duo PoPoyans, who entrance with the lovely “Shukujitsu,” and on the other there's Bristol musician Rachael Dadd's elegant vocal-piano piece (“Happiness”) and Brooklynite Marla Hansen's sweet waltz for voice, piano, and plucked viola (“Shuffle Your Feet”)—worlds apart in one sense but equally charming. Contrasts abound: Hirono Nishiyama layers vocals, electronics, glockenspiel, and woodwinds to create a dreamy smorgasbord of quirky, child-like pop in “World's End Fanfare” while Danielle McCaffrey's whisper gracefully enhances the lyrical folk minimalism of “Only Natural” by Part Timer (ex- Clickits member John McCaffrey). Pan Am Scan (London-based sound-artist Simon Harris and Berlin-based musician Masayoshi Fujita) present an hypnotically meandering flow of granular crackle and processed vibraphone (“Rosa”) that's far removed from Hood's haunting folk song (“This Year's First Storm”) where hushed vocals drift on a gentle breeze. Wrapping her whisper around a lulling stream of keyboards, woodwinds, and percussive patter, Cokiyu's “Round in Fog” shines as beautifully as anything on her Mirror Flake release. Little Things, which also includes a video collaboration by Iris Piers and aus (Yasuhiko Fukuzono), falters slightly near its close with over-long pieces by Scacco and Dale Berning—perhaps the album's two longest songs should have appeared earlier—but the collection nevertheless leaves a strong cumulative impression.

Extending the label's identity into new territory, Silent77 merges Flau's customary melodic sweetness and delicacy with a harder-edged instrumental hip-hop sensibility. The template isn't unfamiliar—voice snippets and assorted other samples swim in a densely-compacted swirl of Boards of Canada-flavoured synth melodies and funky breakbeats—but the fifteen-track album debut by Japanese producer Geskia proves satisfying nonetheless. Industrial music, trip-hop, and techno are cited as influences but his head-nod is closer in spirit to the psychedelic boom-bap of Prefuse 73 and Anticon artist Odd Nosdam—though injected with a healthy dose of sweetener. The hour-long album's oft-becalmed moods range from bucolic (“4,” where a repeating synth motif suggests a loon's call, and “13”) to dreamy (the hazy entrancement of “6” and “9”) and still hazier (no one would bat an eye were “14” added to Geogaddi) with occasional beatless interludes interspersed to break up the flow (“5,” “8”). Dim the lights for the low-level, piano-based sparkle of “7” and enjoy.

June 2008