Oppressed By The Line: Kiku
Drifting Falling

Jonathan Thompson wrote the material on Kiku while on holiday in Japan during 2006 and certainly sonic traces of the trip do seep into his third Oppressed By The Line recording. Written after Thompson visited Fuji and Hakone, “Mountain Mist” offers a good example of the shoegaze dreaminess that characterizes the Oppressed By The Line sound. There's a child-like quality in the simple acoustic percussion patterns that establish a rhythm background over which grandiose keyboard tones and Thompson's breathy vocals glide. Though brief, “Sunset from the 16th Floor” is appropriately iridescent, given that it was composed while he gazed upon a beautiful sunset from an Oita window-sill, while the twilight lullaby “One Thousand Red Stars” was written in an upper-floor hotel that overlooked the Tokyo city at night. Composed in Hiroshima, “Paper Cranes,” an uptempo amalgam of shoegaze pop and post-rock, no doubt alludes to the story of Sadako Sasaki, a two-year-old girl at the time of the bombing who died ten years later of leukemia. (Aware of the Japanese legend which states that folding 1000 origami cranes will so please the gods that the folder will be granted a wish, Sadako attempted to fold 1000 cranes hoping she would get well by doing so. Today her story inspires school-children around the world to fold cranes in a wish for peace.) Field sounds of train clatter and speaking voices introduce “Shinkansen” (the piece was written on a bullet train en route to Oita ) after which the piece morphs into an appropriately propulsive exercise in electro-IDM synth-pop. Almost tripling the original's length, Winterlight (Tim Ingham) gives his radiant sunkissed remix of “Sunset from the 16th Floor” the time and space it deserves to make a full impact, after which Taro Kawasaki transforms “Mountain Mist” into a funkier and even more jubilant version of the original.

In addition to its electronic and shoegaze pop dimensions, there's also a synth-heavy “robot music” quality to Thompson's music but such a label can err in underacknowledging the personality and warmth that humanizes the Oppressed By The Line sound. For the record, at thirty-five minutes and with five originals supplemented by two remixes, Kiku might be seen as more of an EP than a full-fledged album, though such an issue hardly argues against the music's appeal.

June 2009