Nikasaya: One Summerheim
Someone Good

Nikasaya, which unites the talents of Hiroshima-based songwriter Nikaido Kazumi and Tenniscoats member Saya, recorded its second album both inside and outside Guggenheim House, Kobe Shioya in the summer of 2009. A melodically and vocally rich delight, One Summerheim is a sparsely arranged charmer which places vocals at the forefront and augments them with piano, acoustic guitar (Tenniscoats' Ueno Takashi on “Siroi Ohisama”), flute, hand drum, harmonium (played by Lawrence English on “Yubara”), and field recordings (a train moving through the background of “Ufun Taxi”).

Though there's clearly a uniformity of sound to the recording, the songs stylistically range from joyous chants to dirges. “Siroi Ohisama” and “Bokura'n Niwa” exude the air of playful elementary school chants, with Nikasaya's vocal melodies backed by the music teacher's piano playing; “Yuka,” by contrast, is a mournful interlude of wordless vocalizing, while “Gumaou” presents its haunting vocal folk melodies in both call-and-response and harmony forms. “Cream Pan” marries the urgency of a G-man feel and the overhead hum of an airplane, while “Buun” (an extension of “Cream Pan”) adds the roar of a train and the thrum of cicada to its sound mass. Settings such as “Ramadan,” “Dantsuku,” and “Cream Pan” could make Meredith Monk envious, so engaging and playful are the weaves of their vocal arrangements. One Summerheim admittedly won't be to everyone's taste but listeners with an appetite for Japanese vocal interplay and heartwarming songs stand to be charmed.

January 2010