Gurun Gurun's self-titled debut album is a curious creature indeed—though not displeasingly so. It exudes a distinctly Japanese electro-pop character, despite being the brainchild of keyboard player Jara Tarnovski and guitarist Tomas Knoflicek of the Czech Republic, who formed the group in 2007 and subsequently added third member Federsel to help shape their weird and wobbly experimental pop into palatable form (Gurun, incidentally, is the name of a fictional planet in a Slovak sci-fi TV show She Came Out of the Blue Sky). The three contribute a rich range of instrument sounds to the recording (guitar, bass, keyboards, glockenspiel, turntables, electronics, effects), but they also receive ample support from a generous number of guests, namely Floex (clarinet, koto), Artem Vartanian (clarinet, trumpet, tin whistle), Irena and Vojtech Havlovi (alto and tenor viola da gamba), Daniel Meier (violin), and guest vocalists Moskitoo, Sawako, and Rurarakiss. In twelve songs (two of them remixes by Opiate and Kora et le Mechanix), electronics flicker incessantly while instrument sounds bob to the surface of a jam-packed mix filled with musical ingredients.
It's easy to picture “Fu” playing softly while a baby sleeps in its crib on a warm summer's day; certainly Moskitoo's (Sapporo, Japan-based Sanae Yamasaki) breathy singing, aided by swirling string and flute flourishes, helps give its glitchy electronic pop a lullaby-like feel (at album's end, Future 3 and System member Thomas Knak gives “Fu” a satisfying Opiate makeover that brings the song's emotional and dramatic qualities into even clearer focus). “Karumi” receives two readings, the original a restless shape-shifter of field recordings, glitchy electronics, and acoustic instruments (clarinet, guitars, strings) and Kora et le Mechanix's mix an appealingly becalmed and string-heavy treatment conducive to repose and reflection. “Emoto” finds us inhabiting woozy Philip Jeck territory for a brief instrumental interlude, while Sawako's voice appears astride the equally topsy-turvy “Yume No Mori” and “Yuki ~ Hawaiian Snowflake.”
The recording isn't without an occasional flaw. Rurarakiss's (Aki Tomita of Saitama, Japan) child-like voice coos a little too excessively for my liking during “Kodomo,” though that isn't enough to negate the song's clarinet-laden charms. In general, Gurun Gurun's music succeeds best when they channel their imagination and sounds into a formally structured pop song setting such as “Ano Uta” as opposed to atmospheric settings that float sometimes a little too freely. In this particular case, pairing Moskitoo's voice with a sparkling blend of glockenspiels and electronics ends up producing something rather wondrous.