Soundscaping // On Gurun Gurun and the Japanese sound of a Czech outfit // 2011

Artist: Gurun Gurun
Label: Home Normal
Year: 2011
Format: CD

My my, this is quite a new direction for Home Normal, and it is certainly refreshing that labels allow themselves the choice to generally just release great music and defy being classified as a particular sort of label. With Hawgood’s affinity for Japanese culture clear in your mind, and particularly the dazzle of the child-like and curious aspects of Japanese music, it’s quite easy to see Gurun Gurun would trigger the right strings in the label owner’s heart. The real surprise however is that Gurun Gurun are neither Japanese or have ever been to Japan, but is a Czech ensemble, who including notable guest musicians such as Sawako, Moskitoo and Rurarakiss, all on vocals, add up to close to a dozen members with the core based around members (Tarnovski and Knoflicek) from Miou Miou and Federsel of various experimental, improvisational bands and art groups. Add to that instruments by Artem Vartanian and Floex whose clarinets delicately complemented the hushed vocals of Rurarakiss on ‘Kodomo’ amidst the fray of glitchy electronics. Daniel Meyer treads the violin with expert ease and lends a feeling of eerie and fun to complement the softly lullabic, pop melodies of the core trio who have composed a selection of tracks that feel very diverse but also coherent.

Associations naturally are drawn to Japanese experimental and improv pop bands due to the vocals obviously but also the choice of instrumentation and that inherent playfulness that resides in every melody. Glockenspiel and percussion, ‘fun’ glitchy electronics and lots of samples flitting in and out at the most opportune moments, and the base melodies based around electric and acoustic guitars and piano/keyboards.

At first listen through, I felt the album had a bit of a samey sound to it, that I lost interest after a few songs, but you just have to ignore such silly thoughts. This isn’t an interview and you have to be open to later impressions and thus having had the album on the headphones alot since then, you come to recognise the diverse qualities and various little details that make each track stand apart but also the red line to glue them together to give that feeling of a seamless, sonic trip that Tarnovski, Knoflicek and Federsel expertly have distilled from the myriad of musicians and sounds they had available.

Definitely a contender for album of the year!