Drag City Rec. Eiko Ishibashi : Imitation of Life (JAP/US,2013)***'
Japan knows different sorts of singer-songwriters. Some of them show interests in all sorts of progressive and experimental directions for the accompaniment/band arrangements, while themselves as singers remaining seriously focused on songs and even merely sweet even in more pop-oriented directions.
Japanese singer-songwriter Eiko Ishibashi started as a drummer in several bands, also as a session musician, but then focused also on piano, flute and vibraphone. After having done a commission for a soundtrack, she also launched a solo career. Since 2006, she has released four pop albums and a solo piano album. Musicians that played with her included Keiji Haino, Akira Sakata, Charlemagne Palestine, Seiichi Yamamoto, Gasper Claus, Oren Ambarchi, Glenn Kotche, Darin Gray and Merzbow. She is also a member of the current Jim O’Rourke band and recently formed an improvisation group called Kafka's Ibiki, with O'Rourke and Tatsuhisa Yamamoto. Jim O'Rourke took care of the production of this LP. The members of the accompanying group on this album are Jim O’Rourke, Toshiaki Sudo, Tatsuhisa Yamamoto and Atsuko Hatan.
The album still hangs around the breathy, nearly serious-sweet vocals of Eiko, with plenty of room for instrumental parts. There are lots of arrangements done that work towards perfection, which the label described correctly as having “precise compositions … (that are) arranged with a dramatic-yet-humorous prog-pop sound.” Eiko herself plays piano, vibraphone, and flute as well as nylon-string guitar. The band surely has the ability to create certain contemporary jazz-rock abilities, which the in-between musical themes of the “introduction” showed well. Instead, the arrangements are more often showing a chamber-like pop setting with dynamics and grooves that prepare the moments of singing. Mostly it are piano and drums and some acoustic pickings that are all that the singing needs in order to make it’s essence clear, a foundation that is allowed to show itself clear, while all other arrangements only enrich this basic core, or to show it’s own freedom in moments of rests. “Silent Running” has again a touch of jazz (piano and guitar). After an included break point, the band returns with an electric emotional blues-rock part too. Everywhere I can say that the arrangements have something tasty that fit the songs well.
Label info: http://www.dragcity.com/products/imitation-of-life