‘Foundland’ is the latest compilation album from esteemed Japanese label Flau. This particular compilation serves as a document of the label’s regular live nights in Tokyo. What is particularly astounding is that, if the press release is to be believed, every track here is a live take…”why is this astounding?” you might ask. Simply put, the sheer quality of the recordings are a true surprise. On first listen, I was under the impression that this was ‘just’ a compilation; i.e. a collection of studio tracks. The live mixing desk at the Foundland nights has to be a genuine beast…there’s no semblance of audience noise, the instruments are crystal clear, and everything is note perfect across a range of styles from the pared-back naive acoustic guitar and cute Engrish of the opener, through toe tapping pieces and moderately more electronically manipulated fare. I guess this is also testament to the quality of the artists featured who have clearly honed their live acts to a state of near perfection.
Potential listeners should know that the prevailing flavour across the compilation is one of an acoustic/organic/singer-songwriter type rather than the clinically precise electro-abstract pop of a good slice of the Flau back catalogue. Favourite Flau contributors like Cokiyu, Cuushe, and label founder Aus, are nowhere to be heard. Instead, we are treated to a variety of previously unheard of, and lesser known contributors to the folk-infused ambient-pop scene (is that a thing?). Some of my highlights include:
-Aoki Hyato, who pulls a splendid take on the traditional track ‘no place like home’…it’s nothing earth-shattering, but is a very pleasant interpretation that touches on the sense of the track without the cloying sentimentality that one associates with the original.
-Karato Yukari brings to mind a Japanese Heather Woods Broderick with a delightfully catchy barebones acoustic number that places lyrics in her native tongue over a gentle repeated refrain.
-Rachael Dadd’s track “Join In” is something of a standout on the album; she coaxes a hypnotic, raw groove out of her guitar, and weaves a bewitching vocal line in and amongst the notes…this is probably what pop sounds like in an alternate dimension.
-Popoyans (who you may have heard on previous Flau compilation ‘Little Things’) appear to have carved a splendid songwriting niche for themselves melding subtle and accomplished instrumentation with a seemingly playground inspired take on folk. Beautiful and satisfying with just a hint of the Japanese love of all things saccharine-sweet.
-Aspidistrafly channel early Low and somnambulant ambient washes into an all-too-short ketamine-infused, blurry dreamscape.
All the other contributors also provide excellent pieces that, despite differing approaches, manage to come together to make a coherent whole. Altogether, the compilation hangs together remarkably well and gives us a brief taste of the live magic that we, unfortunately, miss out on by being somewhat more than a stones throw away from Flau’s Tokyo headquarters and the Foundland nights.
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