VA: Our Little Prayers (for Japan)

In the spirit of Kanshin, the recent double-CD compilation album jointly curated by Daniel Crossley (Fluid Radio) and Jonathan Lees (Hibernate/Rural Colours), comes mü-nest's own charity project, Our Little Prayers (for Japan), the Malaysian label's laudable show of support to the Japanese people in the wake of the devastating March 2011 earthquake and tsunami (all profits from the release will be donated to the Malaysian Red Crescent Society's “Japan Earthquake & Tsunami” International Relief Fund). The label's contribution to the cause features eight pieces by musicians from Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand, China, and South Korea, some of whom already will be familiar to long-time mü-nest devotees.

Much of the release is in the style of pastoral electronica—folktronica, if you will—that mü-nest and its artists have been perfecting for a number of years now. The opening track, “Reform,” by Flica (Malaysian musician Euseng Seto, whose debut album Windvane and Window was released by mü-nest in 2008)  is representative of the style, with Seto arranging acoustic guitars, pianos, and electronics into five luscious minutes of electroacoustic serenity. Folkaholic's “October Sky” is as lovely, if a slightly more electrified song by comparison with electric guitars added to the song's sparkling seaside washes and tranquil moodscaping. While Furniture's “Evelyn Etc” swells in intensity on account of its electric guitar strums and psychedelic scene-painting, Tatmo's “Sleeptalking” pushes the music even further in a heavier direction by using electric guitar to give the song's melodies a comparatively raw edge. An understated techno pulse gives me:mo's (Beijing-born Zhai Ruixin) “Sunfleck” a breezier feel than most of the album's songs, though one's attention is directed as much to its gauzy layers and hushed vocals as its beat pattern. The addition of a melodica to Hummingbert Stereo's “Firefly Dancing” elevates the song's already endearing qualities, while Sima+Elintseeker's “A Morning Walk” and Sonicbrat's “A Cup of Sunshine” stand out as particularly pretty pieces, and do so even more when a heartbreaking string part emerges during the former song's second half and when strings and toy piano create such moving splendour during the latter.

Melody, harmony, and uplift are paramount in the eight settings, regardless of the artist involved, and the title of Sonicbrat's lovely contribution to the collection, “A Cup of Sunshine,” can be seen as an embodiment of the entire project's heartfelt spirit. One would have to have a cold heart indeed not to be moved by the sincerity with which mü-nest passes on its little prayers to its ever-resilient Japanese brothers and sisters as they tackle the immense challenge of rebuilding their lives.

August 2011