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 Review archive:  # a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z

Go to the Piana website  Piana - Snow Bird [Happy - 2003]

A few months ago, Taylor Deupree, the man behind the 12k label, launched Happy with the aim of releasing “unconventional Japanese pop”. This album is the label’s first release, a magnificent meeting of laptop music and pop culture.

Piana is 27 years old Sasaki Naoko, who, surprisingly, doesn’t come from Tokyo or Osaka but from Morioka, in the north of Japan. In other words: further proof that Japan’s musical life is not limited to a couple of big cities (Piana; Tha Blue Herb in Sapporo; Haco in Kobe…). Although Snow Bird is her first solo release, Sasaki is not a newcomer. She appeared on Farewell kingdom, an album from the great World end’s girlfriend.

Before being licensed to Happy, Snow Bird was released in Japan on Cubic Music, Minamo’s Sugimoto Keiichi’s label. The Minamo connection doesn’t end here: guitarist Iwashita Yuichiro plays on five tracks.

What is striking is the “purity” of the result: there is something absolutely beautiful, gorgeous and untarnished about those songs. Some very discreet guitar parts and a bit of piano with very tasteful “laptopism”. Most impressive is Sasaki’s voice: ok, one might call it child-like or innocent, but it’s above all a very peculiar and extremely touching one.

However, I think that Piana conveys less of a playful vibe as, say, Tujiko Noriko. When I listen to Snow Bird, I’m not fooling around; I’m dead serious and I feel that, in some ways, melancholy is taking control of me. Quite often, I find myself “melting”, falling for the melodies, “diving” into the songs. Some might sound like sketches, others like lullabies and a couple of others like pure pop song, it doesn’t matter: it works marvellously well as long as you’re not afraid of glitches in your pop or pop in your glitches, so to speak.

Although most of the songs are very impressive, I have to talk a little more about Blue Bell. In my “dreamland”, this track would have the top spot in the charts for months. I don’t know what she is singing about, but it sounds very sad, it breaks my heart (yeah, I’m a sucker for that kind of things…), and at the same time makes me feel very good. Instrumentally speaking, you get carefully measured guitar by Iwashita, organ, drumming, xylophone and much less clicks and cuts. A gem of a song, really.

My only regret: Snow Bird lasts 36 minutes. However, it remains my best find of the end of 2003. I’m already begging for more actually…

Rating: 5 out of 5Rating: 5 out of 5Rating: 5 out of 5Rating: 5 out of 5Rating: 5 out of 5

François Monti
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