“Windswept Adan”, the seventh studio album from rising Japanese singer and guitarist Ichiko Aoba, is a singer-songwriter album, a concept album, a piece of chamber music, and a contemporary orchestral work. It is heavily influenced by jazz, by folk and by impressionistic classical music. It is a soundtrack to an imaginary film; it is an album that tells a story; it is a piece of fantasy science fiction set to music; it is a sonic voyage through the East China Sea.
“It is written as the soundtrack to a fictitious movie,” says Ichiko. “It is a story about a girl who goes from the fictional Kirinaki Island – an island inhabited by a tribe of inbred families – to Adan Island. Adan has no language. The girl meets the creatures that live on that island and traces the roots of her life while gifting shells to the natives of Adan Island.”
Where Ichiko’s previous songs have been open to interpretation, she wants “Windswept Adan” to tell a very specific story. “We wanted the music to express things like the temperature flowing in the story, the girl’s facial expression, and the smell of the sea breeze,” she says. “It was like a piece of acting for me. I think I’ve become able to think more three-dimensionally about works and stages.”
Ichiko’s vantage point constantly changes point-of-view throughout the album. “The lyrics shift from the perspective of the girl who is the main character, to the perspective of the plants that live on the island, to a bundle of lives that straddle space and time.” The album is arranged in chronological order, telling the story of the girl’s journey between islands. Opener “Prologue” places the listener squarely on the coral archipelago, with bells, birds and a field recording of the sea that Aoba made herself on the Honohoshi coast of Amami Oshima. The lyrics of “Pilgrimage” features invented words. “I wrote it in the hope that it will become the song that connects the world with our language and the island without language that the girl has been exiled to.” The beautifully orchestrated “Porcelain” – the album’s lead single – takes us further into the coral islands; “Easter Lily” hits us with a heartbreaking chord sequence; by the impressionistic, piano-led ambient composition “Parfum d’etoiles” the vocals are virtually wordless, buried deep in the mix. The poetic imagery is strong on “Sagu Palm’s Song”: “Where to go in this storm?” she sings, in a tightly harmonised, breakthy whisper. “To another dimension, reflected in the water/if I jump, ripples in the sky/where the winds meet you might see the dragon’s trail in the gorge”.
The fantasy world in which “Windswept Adan” is set is loosely based on Japan’s Southwest Islands – the Ryukyu Archipelago that stretches from Kyushu to Taiwan. Ichiko travelled to the island chain in 2020 with photographer Kodai Kobyashi, immersing herself in the beauty of these coral islands, and started to piece together a story that used some of the imagery they recorded.
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