Likened to Bjork and Deerhoof by some Smile Down Upon Us veer closer to the beguiling oddity of female vocalists CocoRosie, Joanna Newsom -uncannily on the opening track – and the sparse Norwegian soundscapes of Susanna and the Magical Orchestra. What ‘Smile Down Upon Us’ achieves is to sound like no place at all.
MoomLooo, Japanese and living in Tokyo, “sings, tells stories, makes electronics, collects sounds and breaks things.” Keiron and David, English and living in London, “play musical instruments – lots of them. One day we all hope to meet.” Sending their works over oceans and crafting an album having never met this debut long-player is surprisingly accomplished.
At its worst it scratches at you with frustrating instrumental tracks and out of place mandolin and pipes though MoomLooo’s enchanting voice most often save the piece. She floats over standout tracks with sometime swirling harmonies (‘Tip Toe Through The Tulips’, ‘Two Weeks Last Summer’) and often entranced breathy vocals (‘My Body Continents’, ‘A Vessel In The Fragrance’). It all sounds so simple yet much like her nation there is something mystical and hidden that can’t be explained or replicated. Suddenly they return to the chaotic sounds of the New York and Scandanevian underground. With so many influences this record is a success because it never rests in a single place or time.
Ane Larsen on ‘Kotoba No Yukue’ and Keiron on ‘Ken Ken Pah’ provide spoken word with a style unmistankingly Nippon, instantly recalling the stuttering Japanese alt-pop of Asa-Chang. Throughout the record the bells, glockenspiel, chimes and strange clapping and tapping send a mind back to beautiful dripping days strolling through Kyoto temples with only the sounds of shuffling feet, gravel and birds.
This cross collaboration suggests a similar intwined detached culture shock and authenticity as the film ‘Lost In Translation’ and yet Smile Down Upon Us switch from Japanese to English without ever allowing the music and lyrics to lose meaning. With a meeting and live shows finally planned for this summer future recordings will pack in even more ideas and influences. As the slate grey skies sheet English rain Upon Us let MoomLooo whisk you to another place where the heavens Smile Down.