Review: Shoko Igarashi – Simple Sentences


What does Simple Sentences remind you of? I reckon a few of these tracks could be supercharged demo songs from your old Yamaha PSR-270 keyboard. Others could easily slip behind the menu screen of a 90s SEGA driving game. Elsewhere are synthesised iterations of first-wave post-rock, and flavours possibly pulled from Shoko Igarashi’s origins in rural Japan and her work as a jazz saxophonist. Simple Sentences is a weird record, without the sense that it’s straining to be that way. Peculiar details like the duck quacks on “CASH OK”, or the titular vocal refrain on “AppleBanana”, whirl into the frame and are immediately accepted as part of the picture. Despite the record’s meticulous construction, the whole thing runs on the liquid logic of improvisatory jazz – bass lines jag through unrepeating syncopations, flutes flicker like seahorse tails, chords transmit either reverie or sadness depending on your angle. This rolling, invertebrate energy cultivates a sense that all reflexes are permitted and innately trusted.

Aptly, the perceived highlights are always shifting. Initially it might be “Comfy Place”, which hits a hyperreal nostalgia reminiscent of Boards Of Canada’s darker corners. Or it might be the bubbling disco beat of “Anime Song”, or the shuffling puzzle of “Monochrome Chronicle”. Or to take a broader view, it could be the drum programming throughout, with a palette of plastic samples arranged into intricate and unexpected grooves, or the earnest synths that pull from a lineage of 80s bargain bin pop cassettes. The charms are ceaseless, and ultimately Simple Sentences feels like the accumulation of a life that has zig-zagged between different countries (Japan, USA, Belgium), record stores, jazz venues and budget TV shows, possessing a natural coherence that can only arise when someone has actually lived through these disparate points of reference. This is Shoko Igarashi collapsing her own timeline into a single statement, leaving the listener with the genuine pleasure of unraveling it again.

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