I was sitting on the settee as I had my first listen to Ichiko Aoba’s seventh studio album, Windswept Adan. As the room filled with visceral, omnipotent sound, I half expected the darkened screen of our hand-me-down TV to jerk to life, filled with swaying palm trees and small weather-worn boats bobbing on benign seas.
It’s a concept album, set on the fictional Adan Island – an archipelago inhabited by a tribe of creatures of no language – which tracks the journey of a young girl as she departs her hometown. It’s a change of pace for the oft-solitary Ichiko Aoba; previous releases having been characterised by their folksy vocals and meandering acoustic guitars alone, Windswept Adan is a lot more complex, with neoteric sounds and newfound instruments creeping into the artist’s unwavering ear for composition.
Given this newfangled grandeur, it’d be easy to see why steadfast Ichiko Aoba fans might have their reservations. But the tracks themselves, studied and meticulous, pull back from this edge. ‘Prologue’s scrapbooked sounds and gentle wind-chimes act as a mediator between Ichiko Aoba’s past and present, where ‘Pilgrimage’ and ‘Porcelain’ feel like the entrance to a new world. ‘Dawn in the Adan’ is as near as we get to an earworm, before ‘Adan no Shima no Tanjyosai’ makes more use of silence, with long, still beats filling in the gaps between creamy flecks of guitar and velveteen vocals.
As I listen to Windswept Adan for what is probably the eighth or ninth time, it feels like a record worlds away from the one I first listened to in front of the television on my tatty settee. The strings seem cleaner, murmurs clearer and with each fresh listen, new intricacies and previously uncharted minutiae seem to appear.
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