Immediately one of my favorites of the year, the debut from Maya Ongaku is imbued with the relaxed nature of the band’s island environs. Hailing from the surrounding community of Enoshima just a bit southwest of Tokyo, the band is centered around the community shop Ace General Store — a kind of vintage, record, and dry goods store that the band runs. In lulls, they sneak away to the in-house recording studio. The breaks have been fruitful, as even a cursory listen to Approach To Anima would reveal. The record is wound in a linen layer of calm and it retains an air of respite from the world outside. The sounds are often underpinned by rain and water, a slow deluge that soaks the world outside of Amima’s walls, but never seeps inside. The album is uncanny in its ability to ward off the chill.
The record at times touches on the ‘90s psych-folk movement that took root in Japan — shades of Ghost’s Lama Rabi Rabi or Floating Flower, though it also reflects the more languid works that preceded them like Fluid or Takuro Yoshida. The record is rooted in a groove that’s subtle but steady. Ryota Takano’s bass lulls the listener into a sense of sway as hand drums and soft strums play off the patter of the rain. Fleeced saxes make their way into the mix, cradling the songs, but never overtaking them. The album warms, like tea trickling down the esophagus or the rose bloom of whiskey in winter. It radiates through the body in slow waves, a resplendent record that lets the listener slip between sides of the veil.
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