Raised in Bogotá, Colombia and of Japanese descent, Nobara Hayakawa is trained in jazz singing, holds degrees in Graphic Design and Fine Arts from Universidad Nacional de Columbia and Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music, and is currently a lecturer at two Colombian universities. But I won't hold that against her; CTW accepts anyone, no matter how clever.
In the first track out of six, Trail, Ms Hayakawa sings in Japanese and wordless vocals; the latter are used for most of the album (with a splash of English), so all you monoglots out there can relax. It's about "the love/hate pendular movements that one experiences under the effects of a caprice” and there is indeed a little tension in the stunning wash of vocal harmonies that dominate this song. The luxuriant vocals are panned either side of the insistent, tinny percussion that nags away as though someone was tapping on the computer screen to get your attention.
Now you know that Ms Hayakawa can hold a note or three, you might expect some decent singing in the next track. Clever you; you're right on the nose. In fact, there are some lovely swooping vocal phrases that are strongly reminiscent of Kate Bush. What you might not expect is a hoover, even though the track is named Hoover Love. Take your mind out of the gutter. It's surreal to listen to this charming song's tick-tock percussion and piano and then hear a vacuum cleaner start up in the background, begin to roar like a jet engine and then, for a few enchanting seconds, match the song's pitch before slowly fading away. If nothing else, it'll change your opinion of carpets.
Alas is a gentle vocal workout with a soothing piano accompaniment and synth embellishments. Towards the end of the track, a bass pad underlines the wistful atmosphere. Nobara responds by exploring her lower vocal register.
To Desalejar, where the listener will enjoy some crusty distorted vocals, a memorable synth melody and another lovely bed of vocals. Again, her swooping lines, overt emotionalism and willingness to incorporate unusual ambient sounds into her songs lead me to think that Ms Hayakawa is a Kate Bush fan – and that's before I mention the steam whistle coda. Of course, I might be wrong. We all know that I'm an idiot.
The hums and ambient noises at the start of Fuzzy Lady are interrupted by an amplified, reverberating slow drag down a guitar string - it's the nastiest sound you'll have heard since your least favourite teacher last scraped chalk down a blackboard. It's followed by a piano, the obligatory enchanting vocals and - to continue the earlier household cleaning theme - a washing machine. There's also a voiceover from an ancient detergent advert, jazzy piano chords, cooing vocals, sleepy guitars and a drum machine that sneakily ups and drops the tempo as the mood takes it. Would you expect anything less? I didn't like Fuzzy Lady at first, but subsequent listens have revealed it to be a beautiful piece of ambient-ish, atmospheric electronica.
Finally, the first minute of Homelessness, consisting as it does of lacklustre synths and distorted rumbling, is rather disappointing, but its second is fortunately hijacked by a very low-fi drum beat and an ear-meltingly gorgeous melody – sung in English, no less. It was written "after reading too much Paul Auster and crying too much for the same ghost". Artistic hangovers are evidently more spiritual and productive than my cheap and nasty alcoholic ones.
There's no Donate button on the album's release page at Intervall-audio, but the netlabel does have a shop dedicated to German & Japanese electronica, mainly from Düsseldorf & Tokyo, so feel free to let your wallet run amok. Nobara Hayakawa's website is similarly absent of shiny money buttons, but I'm sure she'd be delighted to receive a few emails saying how her album has made the world a better place. She's also on the lookout for musical collaborations, so don't be shy.
Nobara Hayakawa - Trail EP (zipped album and preview mp3s on netlabel release page)
Nobara Hayakawa - Trail EP (zipped album and full individual mp3s, baby, at archive.org)