CuusheFor a pianist to adopt a chillwave sound for her sophomore album, a form of music often associated with amateur bedroom musicians, would seem like a dumbed-down shot at accessibility, and ultimately this album follows that lead, with sprinklings of beautiful musicianship along the way, just increasing the frustration of what could have been.

To put together a successful and coherent album of this genre, the musician has to achieve the harmonic balance of both relaxing yet, most importantly, entertaining the listener throughout, despite focusing on the somewhat more delicate and fragile end of the musical spectrum.

First song in and you’d think this balance had been struck; ‘Sort of Light’ flings its arms around the listener, pulling them into Cuushe’s minimal sun-basked sea. After a vocal repetition of the song’s title, a rolling piano loops over the original structure enlacing the song with an unbeknown beauty, before a subtle breakdown is perfectly overshadowed by the repetition of the same rolling piano, which is soon accompanied by handclaps as the song drives to  a satisfying yet upbeat conclusion.

Pulling yourself out of this sea conscious becomes a fatal worry when the aptly named ‘I Dreamt About Silence’ comes into hazy focus, drifting off from the brief of entertaining yet relaxing and maybe forcing you to drift off too. The first three minutes of the song amble along with Cuushe’s (aka Mayuko Hitotsuyanagi) voice ironically washed out by the starry-eyed yet crushing textures. Soon, however, the textures fall away in favour of Cuushe’s superior piano playing, her fingers tickling feverishly along the scales building a beautiful sound structure. Yet sadly, this rare moment of beauty only makes it all the more painful when it is snatched thievishly away from you, as the computer-enhanced synths return, forcing the song back to its lethargic unconscious state.

‘Butterfly’ adds life to proceedings, opening with a playful one-woman duet. Mayuko cajoles and teases with herself throughout the first verse, providing you with a small glimpse into her persona, before a chorus of standard vocal ‘ahs’ drain the enjoyment away, as a thickened atmosphere absorbs the song within itself, causing the enjoyment to droop.

At the beginning of ‘I Love You’ Cuushe’s voice is for once allowed to soar, showcasing her obvious vocal talents. Later, however, they are hidden yet again as her voice dwindles into a collection of meditated hushes and whispers, as the song ends with an aimless repetition of “I Love You” over a dwindling directionless rhythm; never have those three little words felt more meaningless.

The album’s high point then comes next in ‘I Miss You’. Here the ambient smokes and vapors compressing this record are blown away, leaving a lonely and desperate musician to stand alone and deliver a shameless hook where she declares, “I wanna be with you”. This revealing moment is completely refreshing, having just waded through a forest of shy, insular whispers.  ‘I Miss You’ is irresistible and catchy forming itself around a love-indulgent chorus, where Cuushe declares, “You make me happy”, finally forming a connection between musician and listener as you become part of Cuushe’s now less hazy vision.

‘Lost My Way’ is an ironic title for the next song, as the connection bound between listener and musician slips idly away, as the album, yet again, drifts with pure somnolence. This song is broken and structureless, making it a tedious listen as no singular outstanding feature can be drawn from it.  ‘Swing Your Heart’ offers a sort of solace. Here Cuushe repeats the song-title over muted drums with such feeling forcing the listener to question and consider the circumstances under which such a term was formed. She then forms an enticing melody later in the song, switching between high and low pitches as the piano is allowed to stand alone with Cuushe crafting a unique choral tapestry over the top.

The last two songs only serve to disappoint and frustrate. ‘Steamy Mirror’ is literally an undecipherable vocal over four dull baritone piano bars accompanied with snatches of snare drums, and when the song slows to reveal a tribal playing of a tomtom, anticipation for a change in pace is high before, inexplicably, the song recedes into silence.  ‘Hanabi’ does exactly the same. Here a piano sprawls out over Cuushe’s muted vocals to reveal an alluring chorus, before again, direction is lost, causing an albm to finish in a telling way, offering small doses of hope before seemingly prescribing a much heavier dose of Night Nurse.

This album, just like the contents of a butterfly case, reveals something which is sparingly beautiful, but most importantly fragile and weak with a very limited lifespan.

4 out of 11

Release Date 23/09/2013 (Flau)

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Paddy Kinsella

Hi all, my name is Paddy and I have a love for everything from African music to indie to house (basically anything other than heavy metal). Gigging and listening to albums are genuinely the things I most value and love doing.