Weekend Intermission is our regular feature where we look at an artist or band not from the Nordic countries, just to mix things up a bit.
It occurred to me without any particular reason that ‘Itchykoo Park’, the 1967 song by The Small Faces, might be about a Japanese/Korean national but here we have Ichiko Aoba (青葉市子), the first Weekend Intermission artist we’ve ever had from Japan.
However, she isn’t the only such artist we’ve had in this section that arose out of the Reeperbahn Festival, the annual showcase event in Hamburg and its Anchor Awards, for which a jury led by Tony Visconti trails around the festival, going to watch the shortlisted performers rather than those artists going to them, before choosing a winner who performs at a grand show on the final night.
And this year’s winner was Ichiko Aoba. Here is the announcement (00:50): https://youtu.be/0Q82PrBLh-0?si=TEKPBVAwoLqAcXE8
She is a 33-year old folk singer and songwriter. Her main instrument is guitar, on which she composes most of her music. She also plays the piano, clarinet, accordion, and flute.
Ichiko began to learn how to play classical guitar at the age of 17. Her music has been inspired by Disney and by Studio Ghibli, a Japanese version of Pixar and which also serves as an inspiration to Norway’s Pom Poko if I remember correctly (for its cartoon characters rather than its music in their case).
She released her first album in 2010, aged 19, and there have thus far been nine of them, plus eight live albums and numerous collaborations, including one with Mac DeMarco.
Aoba is known for her acoustic sound and songwriting, which is inspired by her dreams. As long as she isn’t inspired by the Theatre of Dreams; she’d be having nightmares.
‘meringue doll’ is a fairly new song, released in the last month or so although it might be an older song that has been ‘updated.’ She has only introduced heavy and penetrating string parts quite recently, via her arranger Hiroaki Mizutani and the Phonolite Strings. But they are very much in evidence here, flowing over what has the appearance of French chamber music.
You could imagine it as the background music to a Brigitte Bardot movie; no – an ageing Brigitte Bardot movie – in which she seduces Roger Vadim again, and for the final time. And she evens sounds like she’s singing in French.
Her voice exudes charm and is what I imagine a Geisha sounds like when sings a lullaby.
It’s all very cultured – the Japanese are so sophisticated, aren’t they? – and if Japan Airlines isn’t lulling its passengers to sleep on long distance flights with this song they are missing a trick somewhere.
Oh, and if you hadn’t heard of her you have now, and believe me she’s Big in Japan.
Find her on: