VA: Foundland

The fourth release in flau's compilation series, Foundland is a collection of live recordings by new and established artists that was recorded at the Vacant venue located in Harajuku, Tokyo. Being a live recording, the material possesses a somewhat loose, intimate, and spontaneous feel compared to the typical in-studio recording; that it does so might be in part accounted for by the fact that the Foundland event is set in a warm and natural setting surrounded by trees.

The first thing one notices about the twelve-song, forty-eight-minute collection is the large number of pieces (some sung in English and some in Japanese) featuring female vocalists (mainly Japanese) and stripped-down arrangements, with often an acoustic guitar the single instrument included. Some songs benefit from the inclusion of an extra sound, such as glockenspiel (PoPoyans' “Otoshimono”), steel pans (Rachael Dadd's “Join In”), electric guitar (Kazuho Oogiya's “On The Line”), harmonica (AOKI, hayato's “breath ~ Home! Sweet Home!”), and woodwinds (How To Count Planets' “Boys & Girls”).

Admittedly there is a potential danger in having so many songs characterized by fragility, but Foundland avoids sameness when a number of them depart from the balladic tone set by Rima Kato's delicate “Open Mind” and Predawn's lovely “Sheep & Tear”: YOK energizes the project with her high-spirited “Make the Circle”; PoPoyans does much the same with radiant vocalizing and acoustic guitar picking during the child-like charmer “Otoshimono”; and Rachael Dadd contributes one of the set's most insistent and aggressive pieces in “Join In.”

All such details aside, it hardly surprises that arguably the album's most beautiful piece comes from the Kitchen. label act ASPIDISTRAFLY, whose “Language of Flowers” offers four-minutes of dream-like enchantment when a gentle female voice coos against a dense backdrop of hazy strings and crashing waves, and while it's comparatively less ornate in its arrangement, MayMay's affecting “The Fall” proves just as haunting.

November 2013