Cuushe – Girl / You Know That I am Here / But the Dream [EP]
"Dream-pop" is a term that has successfully seeped it's way into the alt-musical vernacular in recent years, an apt description at times, but also a somewhat 'catch-all', lazy deception in others. Cuushe most certainly slots into the former with this EP.
However, the Japanese songstress here ventures a step further from mere genre-monikers, and constructs a concept EP based around dreams (look to the song titles for immediate evidence of this). Mayuko Hitotsuyanagi of Kyoto grasps the actuality that dreams, whilst often do contain a soft, hazy translucent facade, are also are quite a jarring, cut-up and misplaced affair; you know, scenes changing rapidly, bodies/thoughts swapped around effortlessly etc.
That's reflected in the various tracks throughout. Whilst it is an EP, it's a three part EP consisting of 11 tracks in total, with each part containing an original track from Cuushe, a remix of these new tracks, and also remixes from Cuushe's previous EP released in 2009, Red Rocket Telepathy. You follow? The whole package consequently feels like it's playing on the dream-within-a-dream cache à la Richard Linklater's Waking Life, becoming deeper involved into a beautiful, diaphanous experience of past work and present intentions.
First part But The Dream opens with '9125days Of Sleep Waves', and has a powerful semblance of an ethereal halfway house between being awake and sinking into the other side. It captures that soft, soothing hypnagogic state, as her gorgeous reverb-heavy vocals engulfs all the important fibres of your body. The delicate electronic tones layered via a shoegaze-wash will make it one of the most pleasant listing experiences you're likely to hear this year. Federico Durand provides a very Brian Eno remix, and turns the dream state up to 11 in an essentially vocal-less piece (well, they're there somewhere, but manipulated so heavily to become unrecognisable).
A Girl is the lullaby section (and part two of the EP). 'Do You Know The Way To Sleep' is a languidly paced, nuanced piano-driven number - a ballad for you unconsciousness, as Hitotsuyanagi melodically whispers the song title over and over. Arguably more interesting is the remix by Geski that sounds like a crossover between the sparse, delightful electronics of múm (Summer Make good era) and London-trio Nedry; the vocals are similar to Ayu Okakita of Nedry, to abridge the Japanese connection further. High praise indeed.
From here the EP takes a bit of a subtle leftfield twist - 'Summer Night Sketch', our first track from previous Cuushe EP Red Rocket Telepathy, gets a remix by Botany. Put of all 11 tracks, it's the most beat-driven electronic track, as the loops and samples grow from a minimal beginning to a richly layered end. Think of Four Tet at his most saccharine and you're almost there; though, perhaps his protégée Juk Juk is a more apt reference point. Cut-up xylophones and rinse.fm-lite yo'.
The wonderful Julia Holter helps out with another past-track remix, 'Swimming in the Room', and it's very - well - Julia Holter, thus very avant-garde. It's typically skeletal in nature, the silences allowed to be very much themselves with the limited, haunting sounds mostly of the 'found sound' variety. This is what dreaming's about; a deeply private, raw and at times unnerving experience, whilst frequently maintaining a stark elegance. File under deep sleep, if we're going to follow-through this analogy.
Final disc You Know That I'm Here is the most upbeat, chillwave-esque segment - the most likely to surface onto playlists around in Internet. 'I Dreamt About Silence' opens and exudes a synth-laden, pop-soaked twinkly aesthetic, effusive in it's charm and sensuous in it's tone. Here the synths sound remarkably warm, in an ambient I Break Horses benevolent sense. Teen Daze brings us out into the wakening world with a remix of this very track - sans the vocals, and being Teen Daze stays true to his dream-wave, pop-based noise, and is pretty fine way to see out the sunrise to.
Unlike most dreams, the 11 tracks are something that you'll remember and be able to enjoy time and time again. The serene yet amorphous vibe is an opulent pop-delight to loose yourself to; possibly, it is a shade too didactic if over-thought and critiqued as a coherent package. Conversely, this is also the strength of the EP, its undaunted ability to explore realms not anticipated. Like a beautiful dream.