madrone avenue - Bright Times

review - 03.26.2019 20:01

A dreamy escape from the hustle and bustle of modern day life.

They may have formed within the blink of an eye, but the members comprising Tokyo dreampop group madrone avenue have filled shoes in similar bands for over a decade including Hakoniwa no Shitsunaigaku, Ri Ri Religion, texas pandaa, moleslope, tarachine, and hologram among others. Born out of a 2015 San Francisco trip by vocalist and pianist Mayuko Kishi, vocalist and bassist Mikiko Degawa, and analogue synthesizer player and electric pianist Chie Takizawa, the trio named their new band after the street they had stayed on and were eventually joined by synthesizer player and programmer Saori Yokoyama and drummer Daisuke Okamura. After three years of activity they finally dropped their first mini-album, Bright Times, on Dewfall Records – a brief flurry of serenity and beautifully textured compositions lifted from pastel suburbs and sun-kissed terraces.

Sunny days and blue skies are the name of the game on Bright Times, a bright and cheerful selection of sonic tapestries fusing delicate piano melodies with up-tempo drumming, lounge ambience, and dreamy electronica. Linked together by “darling” and “melancholic” vocal harmonies from Kishi and Degawa respectively, the five songs on madrone avenue’s debut are immaculate and immersive, calmly layered with an abundance of instrumental components to weave intricate, easy-listening soundscapes. Though the term ”easy-listening” is a misnomer here – the word denotes something very different – the serenity dwelling within these 20 minutes projects nothing short of bliss; there is a tranquillity here listeners will find charming, easily stumbling between the strokes and losing themselves wholly.

Though there is an indistinguishable minimalism here, the beauty of Bright Times is that each song floats with its own unique personality, whether it’s the poignant piano of the opening title track or the retro feel to The Far Land. Referencing various genres in their sound madrone avenue are able to craft their fleeting tonal experience for everybody, with the downtempo electronica slowly drawing listeners into the uplifting With Blind Eyes, the culmination of organ and strings soulfully blended into the pop sensibilities of Cruelly Kind, or the dissonant jazz closing out White Scenery – its immediate presence coming out of nowhere remains the highlight of the album. Each rerun of the album also uncovers new sounds, new emotions, new motifs, buried underneath each layer; unsurprisingly then, this is the album’s most endearing quality.

Serving as a brief introduction to a band blossoming from its youth, the talents of all those involved shines through on every turn the music takes. Its dreaminess makes for an ethereal escape from the hustle and bustle of modern life, transporting the listener to an otherworldly place whilst still lingering in the quietude of safety and security, or in some hip postmodern midnight bar elevated high above the insomnia of the city. There is a boundless imagination being mesmerizingly executed here, leaving no doubt this culmination of skilled sonic artists have plenty to deliver in the years ahead; their chemistry alone is seamless, overflowing with the kind of energy that will brighten up anyone’s life, shown clear as day within their music.

Bright Times is available for streaming and download on Bandcamp.

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