Review/Dominic Valvona




Paper Birch ‘MORNINGHAIRWATER’
(TAKUROKU) 5th August 2020


Mooning and pining through a caustic wall of fuzz, feedback and waning the cross-city, cross-border collaboration of Dee Sada and Fergus Lawrie articulate desire and heartbreak in a pandemic. Recorded during the lockdown, between the months of May and June, former primal yelping An Experiment On A Bird In The Air Pump D-bird and current member of NEUMES Sada and her Glasgow pen pal foil Lawrie, of cult Urusei Yatsura fame, meet up in the internet ether to construct both a chthonian and dreamy long-distance musical romance.

Pooling their resources together under the peeling bark lament of the Paper Birch tree the duo wistfully woo sweet discourse amongst an invocation of squalling scuzz, shoegaze, C86, drone space rock and post-punk; all of which they manage to wield to their own unique desires and plaintive resignation, in the face of a quarantined blues.

Sada’s signature softly cooed atmospheric translucent vocals prove a congruous fit with Lawrie’s deeper, more grunge-y despondency; sounding at times like Psycho Candy era Jesus And Mary Chain in harmonious matrimony with Mazzy Star, or, the Pop Group hooks up with MBV. Sada often ventures out solo on this gauzy album, lulling diaphanous heartache like an apparition. This brilliant pairing sound like star-crossed lovers in duet mode, poetically, if sometimes forlornly, missing the other’s company. This love can be creepy and Gothic too, with the duo conjuring up a vision of Jason Pierce’s Spiritualized tuning into a lunar radio broadcast as Sada lurks in a moonlit serenaded graveyard on ‘Cemetery Moon’, and acts the part of a lamenting phantom on ‘Elegy (As We Mourn)’. The veiled, almost submerged, supernatural dreamscape ‘Hide’ even slips into the Lynchian. Less morbid, the duo wistfully ties Lou Reed, Suicide and the Spacemen 3 together on the leather surf entanglement ‘I Don’t Know You’.

Despite a cursed language of disenchantment, and even the metaphorical pained heartbreak of poisoned relationships, plus a tumult of stressed white noise and distorted guitar contouring Sada and Lawrie swoon in beautifully fragile harmony throughout this experimental album. London and Glasgow sensibilities and beautiful morose come together to add something different to the vaporous influences that have inspired it. A barbed romance and set of mentally fatigued musings set in anxious times, MORNINGHAIRWATER marks a divine conjuncture between its creators; a baptism not only for Paper Birch but Café OTO’s newly formed label platform TAKUROKU. I really hope that both parties continue to pursue this successful union, as this burgeoning effort is fast becoming one of my favorite records of 2020.






Hi, my name is Dominic Valvona and I’m the Founder of the music/culture blog monolithcocktail.com For the last ten years I’ve featured and supported music, musicians and labels we love across genres from around the world that we think you’ll want to know about. No content on the site is paid for or sponsored and we only feature artists we have genuine respect for /love. If you enjoy our reviews (and we often write long, thoughtful ones), found a new artist you admire or if we have featured you or artists you represent and would like to buy us a coffee at https://ko-fi.com/monolithcocktail to say cheers for spreading the word, then that would be much appreciated.

ALBUM REVIEW/ WORDS: ANDREW HALL





Grimm Grimm   ‘Cliffhanger’   22nd June 2018, Some Other Planet Records

One of the first pieces of music to emerge from Cliffhanger – the second album written, performed and recorded by London-based, Tokyo-born Koichi Yamanoha under the name Grimm Grimm – was an improbable, near unrecognisable dream-folk cover of The Misfits’ ‘Hybrid Moments’. Perhaps it was the “you hide your looks behind these scars” line that drew Yamanoha in – a man not averse to concealing truthful details underneath swathes of admittedly beautiful reverb. His is a lulling, muzzy, muggy sound that aurally evokes a radiant sun’s attempts to burst through a crowd of trees, or to peer out from behind a man-made structure, as on the sleeve of debut album, Hazy Eyes Maybe.

Cliffhanger is less eccentric (there’s nothing as deliciously madcap as ‘Kazega Fuitara Sayonara’) and eclectic than its predecessor – a record that flitted between ancient-sounding folk (‘Hazy Eyes Maybe’), Paul McCartneyesque melodies (try singing the “soon, right away” line from ‘Ram On’ along to ‘Tell The Truth’), queasy space synths (‘Robert Downey Syndrome’), and knowingly trying and incessant metallic dins (‘Knowing’). It’s more of a piece, with undoubted moves towards greater clarity. ‘Take Me Down To Coney Island’ begins with Yamanoha struggling to make his wispy voice heard over the kind of cavernous, busily obtrusive church organ that virtually dares a music journalist not to use the term “sonic cathedrals of sound”, but reaches a clearing halfway through: its lumbering beat gives way, an ascending organ ushering in two blissful minutes of synth-y epiphany. The lyrical innocence and gorgeous, fluid guitar playing of ‘Ballad Of Cell Membrane’ (“open up your door”) and ‘Still Smiling’ recall the criminally underrated Avi Buffalo, while ‘Orange Coloured Anywhere’ is an inspired, Boards of Canada-style public information announcement. Yamanoha clearly doesn’t feel quite so compelled to lather other people’s voices in effects – on the splendid, unadorned title track, singer Dee Sada delivers lines like “I remember seeing your face in the haze” and “I saw your reflection in the night” with the wide-eyed wonder of Vashti Bunyan.

There’s always a danger that this style of music can drift into “indistinct”, and just a couple of moments bear this out – the moodily ambient ‘Afraid’ outstays its welcome, while the piano-led ‘Wheel’ feels too conventional and chipper in comparison to what surrounds it. ‘Shayou’ – complete with singing-saw synth work from Bo Ningen’s Kohhei Matsuda – closes the album out on a beatifically wonky note. “I believe that we are all born again and our lives are like episodes of intense blockbuster films,” Yamanoha has said in relation to Cliffhanger’s title. Many rapt listeners will keenly await the next instalment.

Andrew Hall




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