Artist of the Week: Yuki Murata – Gift

Yuki Murata of Anoice and Films (Feelms if you’re Russian) fame strikes out on her own on Gift, her third solo effort, including guest musicians Jyunko Tabira, Utaka Fujiwara, and Saiko — not to mention mastering by Takahiro Kido, all of whom are a member of Anoice and/or Films (doubly not even mentioning the short-lived Cru or RiLF projects). What can I say, Ricco label is tightly-knit.

Taking everything else for granted, Anoice is likely the best Japanese instrumental band currently in existence, so any related project is certainly worth looking into. I’ll assume that most are unfamiliar with Murata’s past works, Home and Films, both of which came out eight years ago and feature solo piano work. Fans of the introspective piano will undoubtedly love it, yet it may leave something to be desired in terms of robustness for the average instrumental enthusiast. Fast forward nearly a decade, in which Anoice have released three albums, Films two, and RiLF and Cru one (tough to find, but worth it!), Murata’s music now features strings and woodwinds, and a new personality emerges.

In reality, Gift doesn’t really pull in that many different types of sounds. The album lists the instruments employed as a piano, violin, viola, and flute, which could easily get tiring over three quarters of an hour, but Murata’s compositional skills are harnessed to create an album that never overstays its welcome and gives the listener many different presentations over its run length. Some tracks are more focused on the piano, others let the strings take the highlight — some veer more into ambient territory, others are strictly modern classical. Many “piano” albums suffer from a lack of variety between tracks; Murata has solved this issue by adding a few choice instruments and playing the combinations.

The tracks themselves are also rather pretty. Takahiro Kido likely gets most of the credit for Anoice’s success, but on Gift, Murata either shows that she’s partially responsible for the creative spark behind that project, or she has at least been around long enough to take some cues and employ them herself. What results is an album that steps out of the shadow of her other projects; Gifts is a more honest, fragile product than anything we would expect of Anoice, and the entire tone of the album is several degrees higher on the happiness index. Complex, soul-wretching emotions can surely be a joy ride for post-rock bands, but sometimes the listener just craves something more optimistic.

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