Monday, 5 August 2013

Ikebana - When You Arrive There

Album review by

According to the blurb (although my interest in Japanese culture makes me think I should have known anyway) Ikebana is a form of Japanese flower arranging, an artwork that often incorporates other parts of the plant rather than simply the blooms. It's also designed to purvey minimalism, beauty in space and calmness. With this is mind it becomes more clear exactly where this duo (Maki and En, both female if the names are unfamiliar) are coming from, because 'When You Arrive There' is a very minimalist album and it takes calmness to a fairly extreme level. You'd be more inclined to call this an ambient record above anything else, although they say they take influence from shoegaze (Maki is a former member of shoegazers INCENCE) and drones.

Ambient works such as this are obviously not for everyone, but personally, being a fan of shoegaze, dreampop, ambient sounds, post-rock and similar genres, I had reasonably high hopes for this album. Upon first listen it did give off a sense of understated beauty, but the familiarity that comes with repeat plays failed to materialise in the way I anticipated. So a duo whose inspiration comes from styles of music that, as a rule, take a few listens to properly "get", don't really manage to do this themselves. However, all is not lost, because that initial beauty was still something to behold, and the stripped-back arrangements work well, giving a definite lightness but meaning the album is somewhat devoid of a solid form, it's more a collage of delicate sound.

Song titles almost feel irrelevant here, as the pace and the arrangements change little throughout, and at just seven tracks it could have been released as a 'Tubular Bells'-style solid body of work. Peaceful vocals chime in from the distance, guitars are plucked and strummed with the urgency of Kevin Shields putting together a new album and interesting, unidentifiable sounds pop up from time to time. If you fed The xx a crate of Valium and locked them in a room with some Cocteau Twins records they might emerge from their hibernation with something resembling 'When You Arrive There'. With all that said, this album is very good and, however simplistic it may appear on the surface, you can tell time and effort has been spent perfecting it; this would have to be the case. If the aforementioned genres are up your street then definitely give this album a spin, but do not use while attempting to drive or operate heavy machinery.

Ikebana's website

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