Album review: Yama Warashi – Crispy Moon

Album artwork

Words by Alexandra Dominica

As a contrast to the more lo-fi releases of yesteryear such as the rustic Moon Zero and folksy Moon Egg Yama Warashi have emerged from their creative chrysalis with Crispy Moon, a much more understated yet majestic contribution to their magical opus. 

Having ventured from the world of experimental psychedelia, Japanese artist Yoshino Shigihara has been busy collaborating with an eclectic mix of artists such as Vanishing Twin, Trash Kit, and the Haha Sounds Collective since settling in London in 2019. This brand new offering amalgamates a myriad of influences from her new-found home with the artisan simplicity of her native Japanese folk roots. Yama Warashi (meaning ‘small child like mountain spirit’) is self authored as an “avant-pop gem that lands between the lysergic-folk of Kikagaku Moyo, a laid back Deerhoof and the free jazz of Alice Coltrane.”

Here Yoshino’s wanderlust takes centre stage, with a distinct sense of her yearning permeating its effervescence and omnipotence throughout the album. There is a desire for new experiences, a feeling of a need to let go and embrace the now, to allow the tides of change, happenstance and serendipity to wash over the subconscious.

“Moving to London gave me the chance to work with more diverse musicians” Yoshino says. “And I wanted to be here too because of the high creative energy, the diversity of the music and art here and the people who live here.”

Recorded at the Total Refreshment Centre in London with Kristian Craig Robinson, most of the mixing by Hannes Plattmeire and mastering by Zun Zun Egui guitarist Stephen Kerrison, there are familiar faces, as well as some new ones.

Credit: Adam Isfendiyar (image) & Crystabel Riley (makeup)

Thematically Yoshino never wanders far from the spiritual, with Yoshino’s personal development definitively central here. There are themes of feminine energy, nature, rebirth, cultural universality and humanity running throughout. It almost feels as if she is photosynthesising the natural world around her and transmuting it through her music. With such a rich soil for a creative environment and a careful botanist, it is no surprise that Crispy Moon is a metropolis of moonflowers in full bloom. 

The first track ‘Makkuroi Mizu’ is our introduction to the experience. It’s a submersion through the nomadic marshes of time, while a translucent bass weaves alongside the harmonious yet hypnotic Taishigoto harp. Translating as ‘black water’, this introduction is an illustration of how one seeks wilderness in a strictly cosmopolitan city. To find solace amidst such chaos in London is a difficult feat indeed, as Yoshino explains: “I went to Victoria park, and found a nice spot by the trees and a pond which looked great from far, but when I got there, the water of the pond was black.”

You really do get the feeling this is a first descent down from the mountain, that the spirit is truly immersed in the city, but not as a shapeshifter or a chameleon. Yama Warashi and her wings are in full sight and she remains a wandering mystery of idiosyncrasies. There is a deep mourning of her wilderness yet also a celebration of the omnipresence of London’s melodious chaos. In some ways, the track feels more like a fall from heaven and a gentle song that soothes towards a clarity and lucidity of mind – a spiritual Eden.

Crispy Moon is due for release 27/5/22 on PRAH Recordings

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