Mamerico: Minuscule
Schole Records

Though Mamerico is, formally speaking, made up of singer-composer Maya and lyricist Kazuma Yano, honourary membership should also be extended to Swedish singer-songwriter Johan Christher Schutz, who not only produced the half-hour release but plays almost all of the instruments on the group's debut album. Word choices in this case assume significance beyond the norm: “Mamerico” itself is associated with “utatane yuruyuru,” which stands for “leisurely atmosphere,” while “Minuscule” is a typography term that refers to the lowercase setting of type. The recording is both suffused with a leisurely vibe one associates with tropical vacations and arranged with a sensitivity for the small yet meaningful gesture. The group manages to present an organic and unified sound, despite the multiple traditions that surface within the eight songs, among them Latin, Brazilian, and, of course, Japanese.

Schutz's arrangements form a major part of the album's appeal. In addition to the omnipresent acoustic guitar, the sunny “Okiniiri” receives a considerable boost from the incorporation of melodica, triangle, and bongos—the summative effect as relaxing as a late afternoon of lazy idling on a South American patio. During the slow ballad “Snowdrop,” Maya's voice also benefits from the warming presence of Schutz's elegant and jazz-tinged piano accompaniment. Soothing songs such as “Oyasumi” and “Tricolore” entrance with their siesta-like moods and melodic charms, and bossa nova rhythms emerge during one of the album's most enticingly melodic settings, “A Border.” A breezy Brazilian feel often floats through Mamerico's music, nowhere more delectably than in the opener “Waltz for Hulot” (a tribute to French filmmaker Jacques Tati) where Maya's soft voice glides o'ertop a lilting base of acoustic guitar and piano. It takes a moment for the listener to get used to the pairing of Japanese lyrics and South American rhythms, but Mamerico's appealing sound makes the adjustment an easy one to make throughout this lovely recording.

December 2011