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CD REVIEW

Tomori “Utagoe no Minato”

by James Hadfield

Would it be premature to hail this as the best early-Showa period album of 2010? Osaka duo Tomari’s debut album pays little heed to the stylistic advances of the past half-century, turning instead to the music of prewar Japan for inspiration. It’s a sound that the band describes as kakuu no kayou (literally, imaginary ballads), which is a good way of putting it, seeing as how they aren’t nearly old enough to have experienced the era firsthand.

Kyu Sasayama’s affected, warbling vocal inflections will probably be familiar to anyone over the age of 70, but to the modern ear they sound awfully odd. He has the most fun with the uptempo numbers, whether it’s busting out a convincing falsetto on the jaunty “Kaette Kita Otoko” (“Man Coming Home”), or inhabiting the role of a flustered young romantic on the gently humorous “Boku Mou Gaman Dekinai” (“I Can’t Take It Any More”).

Guitarist Atsuhiko Takemura provides deft accompaniment throughout and they are joined by a selection of guest musicians, of whom Koichiro Katori, on accordion and flute, provides some of the most memorable flourishes.

The recording itself is determinedly lo-fi, with abundant tape hiss and the odd moment where an instrument drifts into the red. Listen to it on headphones and you’ll realize how oddly everything is positioned in the mix, lending an additional patina or weirdness to an experience that was already far from normal.