by Richard Hart
Creating a distinctive mood with an album requires a degree of artistry and patience, as well as the skill to get your chosen atmosphere across to your audience. Music carries an emotional charge to it at the least of times, almost all music conjures a feeling but creating an album that tells a story and sets a scene goes that much deeper.
Japanese ‘dream pop’ artist Cuushe has done just that with her debut album Butterfly Case. The aquatic, ethereal sound perfectly inspires a dream-like mood that floats along. Her delicate, sometimes unintelligible lyrics are similar in style, if not in power, to those of Liz Fraser of the Cocteau Twins. The music itself is a blend of snapping percussion, gentle effects work and keyboard that recalls the likes of William Orbit or The Boards of Canada.
Indeed Cuushe named Boards of Canada as one of her favorite acts and whilst her music is different to their blend of ambient dance, her music has a similar feel and aesthetic. Her voice is gentle, lyrical and keening, sometimes breathless and emotionally charged.
The album starts with the electronically built “Sort of Loght” which showcases her sound rather perfectly to begin the album. The floating, gentle “I Dreamt About Silence”, which featured on one of her earlier E.P’s, is a higher, soaring track which has less of an electronica feel to it.
Butterfly is a much faster paced, though by no means a traditional dance song. A vocals heavy song that escalates from a chorus of calls up through her lyrics and voice, Butterfly is a very emotional track and a very positive one.
The charged, yearning sound of “I Love You” reminds one of Massive Attack and has a slightly darker, more percussion orientated sound. Her voice has a bit more edge, a bit more substance to it in this track giving the song a slightly more focused sound.
The higher, bird like calls of the music in ‘Twilight’ set up a song that just gently floats along. This presages the truly superb ‘I Miss You’ which is both faster and emotionally wrought. A powerful, keening song that starts slow with rhythmic clicking sounds, transitioning into William Orbit style watery sounding beats and then reaching a higher pitch with the chorus where she seeks “You make me high, you never knew”. It’s a beautiful moment in a beautiful, haunting track.
The haunting, surreal ‘Lost My Way’ emerges from the static like a ghost from the fog; deep and dark electronica recalling the sound of Portishead. The chiming bells and delicate beats create one of the darkest tracks on the album.
The slow, almost balletic tones of ‘Swing Your Heart’ are the album at its slowest as the vocals come out slowly, powerfully around a blend of electronic beats and what sounds vaguely like a string section. The slow paces continues with the emotionally charged ‘Steamy Mirror’ which has a dark, intimate sound to it. The two tracks together form a sort of lullaby sound which feels like a bit of a theme across the whole album.
The airy, floating sounds of ‘Hannabi’ close the album out on a higher note as the keening, floating vocals fill the air likes bubbles. The track closes out an album that works best in full, played from start to finish. With the exception of the excellent ‘I Miss You’, few of the tracks would be true stand outs alone but work beautifully in conjunction with each other, each one setting a theme, writing onto the clouds and fading away as the next one takes the tone up, down and builds around the gauzy sound of the whole album.
Cuushe describes her own sound as ‘dream pop’ which might suggest a lack of substance but her music has a dream-like quality which requires a deft touch to produce and for it to not become cloying. She’s an experimental musician, as was witnessed in her E.P’s and whilst the album lacks the clarity, perhaps deliberately, of her superb E.P ‘Do You Know the Way To Sleep?’ she shown herself to be a musical storyteller.