I sometimes have a little ritual when I sit down to listen to an album that I think is going to particularly meaningful for me. It comes from listening Kikagaku Moyo’s ‘House in the Tall Grass’ album, which I recently declared to be my favourite of the last decade, during lockdown and trying to find myself some headspace in a noisy family home. I transport myself to my little hut surrounded by reeds on three sides, and a tranquil lake on the fourth. I have just been out for a walk and come into my sparsely equipped kitchen with its small wooden table… I make a coffee and go out on the small jetty in front of the cabin… I sit and watch the lake, trees and mountains that fill the vista in front of me… and just let the music wash over me. It is a wonderful bit of escapism which, with the right album, is just transcendent… and many of the reviews you read here have been done at my little house in the tall grass (see here for more on this).
And I am there now, there’s a lovely breeze blowing off the lake and the distant mountains are topped with what is probably the last snow of the year… spring is in full bloom and the smell of nature is intense… and if ever there was an album that was made to be listened to in my little cabin it is this one (and the album cover is freakishly close to what I have been imagining for some time now)… recorded by Italian multi-instrumentalist Alessio Ferrari it is, as he describes, “Kikagaku Moyo drinking tea in an Italian forest discussing about Träd Gräs Och Stenar with an elf while he plays a flute”.
…it is hard to disagree with this as a concept for me… and it is probably as close to my ideal as I’m ever going to get… and as a result I certainly feel the empathy flowing from the four tracks here and, as Alessio continues to explain his music, it further solidifies (or maybe that should be diffuses) why it is just right for me and my own little world, he says:
“The name of the project (of which I am the only member at the moment)…is Upupayāma, which means “Mountain Hoopoe”, which is surreal because the hoopoe is not a mountain bird. I like the fact that a mountain hoopoe and an invented language can live in an imaginative world.”
That is just perfect… so as I sit in my own fantasy world, with my real cup of coffee, I am just letting this beautiful music wash over me…
It starts with ‘White Oak’, and right from the beginning there is a real sense of calm and depth that pervades the music. The affinity to Kikagaku Moyo is immediately evident… and this is perhaps no surprise because it has been mixed and mastered by Yui Kimijima, who has helmed a number of releases on the band’s Guruguru Brain label. Of course, the question that one could quite legitimately pose is, why one would listen to this when one can just pick up a Kikagaku Moyo album… well the definitive answer is that this stands on its own merit… the playing is superb and certainly if this track was in a Kikagaku Moyo set you wouldn’t be wondering why. The pace and arrangement is spot on for me and I find myself falling into a deep daydream as I listen to it… it’s haunting while at the same time totally organic and mesmerising.
…I’m totally in the zone as ‘Green Cabana’ kicks in and adds an air of mystery to my surroundings… the psychedelic nature of the music somehow further diffuses my milieu as I feel myself being carried off through multi-tonal moods of orange and maroon hues… a dispersal of reality that takes me further away from the everyday… a lining of magic to my cloud of unknowing… I am both there and not there at the same time… a wonderful positive sense of being lost… and as the track ends I feel a flurry of the dervish before it eases me down gently again…
After that ‘The Blue Magicians Fantasy’ takes me back in time… it has that classic feel of the late 60s for me before the sitar kicks in and my sense of place begins to fade and I am floating rudderless and anchorless just above my lovely lake… it is as if the track creates a mist on which you can float… the music just somehow seems perfect… a pillow for the body, mind and soul as it protects you, from what I’m not sure… however, after a short bridge Ferrari ups the pace and takes the number home at a speed… it is like you have landed on the shore again and just need to dance… grooving in my little space… totally divorced from all the cares of the world.
But nothing so far can prepare you for the last track ‘Hello Green Man, I Am A Tiger’, which is just so beautiful… I can imagine the sun beginning to wane as I watch the wildlife enjoying the last remnants of light… a memory of something perfect having happened, yet tinged with the knowledge that the sun will soon disappear and put and end to this pristine scene… then as the pace picks up there is a sense of beautiful satisfaction… an all-pervading joy and feeling of oneness as darkness falls and you are left with the memories of the day… blissfully curated in the hypnotic ending to this track, and this album.
I do not think that I have ever felt a piece of music reach into my mind… into my fictional headspace… as much as ‘Upupayāma’ has… and, as a result, I feel an incredible affinity with it. Perhaps this comes from a shared love of Kikagaku Moyo and Träd Gräs och Stenar, and the sort of effect that such music can have on one… either way I feel a very personal sense of connection with these four tracks and feel they have found my every bit as much as I have found them. But I’m not ready to leave my little cabin quite yet, so I’m putting the album on again and will invite you in again soon…
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