“I went mourning without the sun; I am a companion to owls.”
In the autumn/winter of 2010, Singapore-based April Lee and Ricks Ang of ASPIDISTRAFLY (also founders of Kitchen. Label) embarked on the recording of their second album A LITTLE FABLE in Japan in collaboration with several artists. Fascinated by the patina of time and themes of folklore, A LITTLE FABLE narrates a surrealist procession of tales, twelve compositions simmering one into the other lyrically and picturesquely. This album sees the duo returning to a warm, organic palette of closely-whispered vocals, fingerpicked guitar, string arrangements and their trademark texture-focused arrangements. Featuring guest collaborators Kyo Ichinose, Seigen Tokuzawa, haruka nakamura, Junya Yanagidaira (ironomi), honagayoko, Akira Kosemura, Janis Crunch and more.
A dusty bottom drawer of forgotten memoirs is unlocked, and the album opens with a mourning, solitary cello while a harmonium drone forebodes an oscillating motif of glockenspiel tones, or sprinkled stars if you will. In LANDSCAPE WITH A FAIRY, a tale of loss and longing during the earliest dawn mist – the world in its daily transition – is daubed in the hues of intensified sunlight, foliage or shadows, only to be diffused and faded by time, not unlike Andrei Tarkovsky’s polaroids of the Russian countryside. April Lee’s intimate vocals and acoustic guitar gently break the silence of a cold morning, backed by graceful string flourishes arranged by Kyo Ichinose. Kitchen. Label’s very own haruka nakamura and Junya Yanagidaira (ironomi) add harmonizing colors of the guitar and piano respectively.
Tracing the mysterious migration routes of nocturnal animals, HOMEWARD WALTZ skips home along a breadcrumbed-path with ephemeral glimpses of forest sights, ornamented by violins and other curious sounds before fulminating into a amorphous guitar drone, as Seigen Tokuzawa’s improvised cello strokes drift and wander with split-second apparitions in the night sky. Sounds of wooden creaks and early morning spoon-in-coffee stirrings permeate the spontaneous atmosphere of COCINA. honagayoko’s quaint and chopped piano phrases waltz with spliced vocals and flute.
Emerging from the darkened foliage into a vast, cryptic hemisphere, the second half of the album teeters on the frailty and transitoriness of the world. A LITTLE FABLE’s voyage reaches a turning point by SEA OF GLASS. Ricks Ang constructs a prolonged arpeggio of sonorous looping guitar motifs that float in and out of focus, reverberating almost like a narcotic percussion across tumultuous oceans. Now distanced and gauzy, sounds of surging waves open COUNTLESS WHITE MOONS in a misty indefiniteness, yet held together charmingly by Akira Kosemura’s luminous piano. The elusive narration in LANGUAGE OF FLOWERS tells of a deliberate escape from the passage of time with a folkloric enchantress who wordlessly casts her spells. In GENSEI, April Lee relates an unspoken anguish in her tender, wavering vibrato while Janis Crunch’s somber piano and chorus vocals loom like a harbinger of death. The last chapter TWINKLING FALL, the second track to feature haruka nakamura, now shuts the drawer of secrets, dissipated monochrome colours restored once again to full bloom.
A LITTLE FABLE is available on CD and the digital format on 15th December 2011. The physical CD copy comes in a 48-page artbook edition (21 x 15cm) featuring photographs and collages by April Lee and Miu Nozaka, with styling by Rika M. Orrery, who have, from their expeditions during the making of this album, directed a dream sequence around the encompassing atmosphere of a secluded hilltop cottage, a forest hued in the splendor of autumn and distant, rocky shores.
A bit like the roving eye of the
flâneur in Baudelaire, who found solace in the bittersweet juxtapositions of urban life, Kitchen. Label documents momentary flickers of melancholic beauty in unlikely environments.