Shizuku, the debut album from Illuha (a play on the word “island” in Portugese), reads like a “state of the union”-styled portrait of 12k in its current form, with the label’s music having grown increasingly organic and electro-acoustic over time. Artists like Illuha (made up of Tokyo residents Corey Fuller and Tomoyoshi Date) have formed seamless harmonious unions between the electronic and natural realms, and the two inhabit the shared spaces of the recording in such a way that whatever differences there might be between them collapse altogether. A physician and musician, the San Paulo, Brazil-born Tomoyoshi Date is also a natural partner for the US-born and Japan-raised Corey Fuller, who issued his first solo album, Seas Between, on Dragon’s Eye Recordings in late 2009. Both are currently based in Tokyo and evidence a sensitivity to delicately shaped and detailed sound worlds of acoustic and organic design. On the fifty-minute recording, six meditations assembled from pipe organ, vibraphone, dulcimer, accordion, piano, synthesizer, field recordings, and processed sounds transport the listener to warm, tropical locales, even if the recording was created in a 100-year old church in Bellingham, Washington.
The album’s longest track at thirteen minutes, “Rokuu” encapsulates the album’s tone and style in a single albeit epic instance. Field recordings of the natural world (ocean sounds) and wavering tones establish a becalmed foundation for the ample flickerings of other instruments that the duo overlays to enhance the material’s textural flow. Acoustic guitars gradually appear to broaden the music’s timbral scope before John Friesen’s lyrical cello playing deepens its emotional impact. Adding the supplicating cry of his instrument to their material was a masterstroke on the group’s part, and lovely too are the moments that follow, with delicate electric guitar picking and high-pitched strings used as a sparing counterpoint to the cello.
Acoustic and electronic elements merge naturally within Illuha’s sound-world. On “Aikou,” for example, piano chords, thumb piano plucks, and winsome cello flourishes intone placidly amidst a wealth of softly shimmering textures and hand percussion (bell tinkles et al.), the elements breathing in tandem and conjuring a peaceful and humid oasis. Even though a wealth of hyperactive sound courses through “Guuzai,” the immersive mass of bell tinklings, organ tones, and plucked strings nevertheless exudes a becalmed ambiance when all of its constituent sounds form a texturally luscious dreamscape. “Kie” seems, if anything, even more rooted in the natural world, with traces of bird chirps and people’s voices and movements audible alongside the slivers of piano playing and ambient tones. The middle piece, “Seiya,” adds an unusual wrinkle to the prototypical 12k recording in adding a spoken word contribution by Japanese Tanka poet Tadahito Ichinoseki to Illuha’s gentle backdrop, the poem apparently about Christmas, birth, death, and other weighty matters. While Illuha’s music makes a powerful impression, the clarity of the recording is a marvel unto itself, with each of the group’s many instruments inhabiting its own clearly defined space within the mix.