NikaSaya – ‘One Summerheim’

December 17, 2009 § Leave a comment

Published: The Big Issue #344, December 2009.

One Summerheim
NikaSaya
***1/2

NikaSaya’s sparse, happily arcane pop will grate with some. Comprising Hiroshima songwriter Nikaido Kazumi and vocalist Saya (of Tokyo psych-pop outfit Tenniscoats), the duo deal in a currency of childlike vocal game play, call-and-response chants and skeletal, nonetheless blissful free-pop excursions.

But while new album One Summerheim may at times resemble the sound of two sherbet-giddy pre-teens jamming it out on the rumpus room piano, there’s far more to NikaSaya’s sketches than a kind of Hello Kitty acoustica.

Recorded on location at Guggenheim House in Shioya, Kobe by Brisbane composer Lawrence English, this compact collection glows with both innocence and experimentation. Beauteous guitar passages, field recordings and various atmospheric layers offset rudimentary hand percussion and plonking piano.

In ‘Ufon Taxi’ an impish vocal motif dances atop an otherwise an elegiac guitar riff and bed of incidental environmental sounds, while in ‘Ramadan’ (endearing pronounced ‘Lamadan’) a stunning vocal harmony rises from the most delicate of fingerpicked guitars. The angelic, choral vocal arrangement of ‘Osiro’ and the wraithelike decelerated flute and drum patterns ‘Oninawa’ prove further highlights.

One Summerheim won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but those who really listen will find a maze of artefacts, missteps, mischief and flashes of genuine beauty.

Dan Rule

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