Kono Michi – 9 Death Haiku – 4.5/5
It wasn’t long after re-discovering Rob Dougan that I became curious: Surely there were other artists who had tried something similar? Before too long I had uncovered Kono Michi and was captivated. The gentle Folk (both Eastern European and Japanese) overtones on simple – perhaps trip-hop inspired – back beat, lavishly complemented by her own beatific classically inspired violin work and abstract pop vocals conjuring images of Bjork. This is not only fairly unique in tone, but superbly performed with a deep set emotion that oozes out of every note sung, every drawn out violin note and every beat.
A concept album based around 18th and 19th century Japanese monks, or more specifically the haiku they wrote before their death; their final message to the world before the parted from it. Raised by both Japanese and Polish-American parents, she before long took to the violin and since has performed in a number of orchestra’s including the New York and LA Philharmonic, all the while becoming more intrigued by more conventional rock. Presented here is an odd blend of them all that seems so simple when heard that you can’t imagine them being apart.
The backing supplies the basic beat which to work from, prominent in their slow and delicate pace, using a combination of percussion instruments from xylophones to drums and double bass. On top of this are the lead violin, often working on top of cello’s, in tandem with viola’s weaving in and out of each other in seamless fashion, performing more than simple riffs, succeeding in providing something heartfelt and emotional. Twinned with this is the sublime vocal work, curious in their manner, thick yet softly sung with an odd sense of rhythm to them, never overused, relying on the combination of vocals and violin to form her music rather than favouring just one.
With a subject matter as woeful as this the result could easily be striking a single emotional chord, but that’s not where she ends it. She doesn’t prey on any single aspect of the demise of her subject matter, but takes a broader view of their final words, exploring the tragedy of it, the beauty of their last message, both chaotic and calm tones, depressing and uplifting atmospheric work, all the while being performed in subtle manner that never fails to be both beautiful and interesting. This is an album that you can’t help but become emotionally involved with, as the tones seep out, and my only complaint is that it feels too short; at less than 30 minutes, I can’t help but wish for more.
Highlights: Cherry Blossoms, Child, Festival of Souls