Geskia, Cuushe team up on impressive Neon Cloud side project

by Russell Thomas

Special To The Japan Times

Neon Cloud was a mysterious entity when it first surfaced a little more than two years ago, but with the release of its second EP some of that mystery is starting to clear.

The 2011 release, “Knit,” consists of four tracks that revel in the once-fashionable Internet subgenre called witch house. It’s easy to dismiss acts associated with those types of trends, but in Tokyo musical styles seldom truly die. On Neon Cloud’s latest release, “Scar,” the sound continues to be defined. More importantly, though, the two behind the project have finally unveiled themselves: experimental beatmaker Geskia and the softly-sung Cuushe.

“We are inspired by beautiful, dark, mysterious, unleashed music such as Portishead,” they admit via a joint email, before citing goth and shoegaze influences. “When we were making this EP, we were so depressed.”

It’s that feeling with which “Scar” is imbued: from the nocturnal bleakness of “1″ and its scratching, insectoid percussion, through “22″ — whose looped sounds and unnerving catchiness display the cyclical thinking of melancholy — and ending with “333,” a climax of despair with glimmers of hope. Even British producer Irrelevant’s remix of “1″ continues the vicious circle of sadness, the listener finding themselves again at the beginning, with Cuushe’s voice purer, set to sub-bass rumbling in the depths.

While the defining emotion may be depression, Cuushe, whose real name is Mayuko Hitotsuyanagi, is coming off a particularly good year. Her 2013 album, “Butterfly Case,” was well received here and abroad.

Neon Cloud describes the inspiration behind “Scar” as “something isolated and disappointed” — with the otherworldly “22″ in particular, explained bluntly: “It was like we were living at the bottom of hell.”

There’s also a distinct feeling of dreaminess within the tracks, something not altogether real, which, considering it deals with intangible emotions, is partly true.

“It is not a dream,” Neon Cloud writes, “but a lot of worries right after waking up at midnight.” The expressive nature of “Scar,” and indeed its very name — not referring to an actual wound, but something supposedly healed and still containing painful memories — is clear. What’s also clear from talking with Neon Cloud is that sense of catharsis, of purging yourself of sad thoughts through music, and through the love of that process.

“Making music and going forward, even though the real world is cruel,” they said. “This makes us hopeful.”

And the powerful nature of expressive music finds its way to the audience, too — that sense of coping with emotions through creating art can help the listener as much as it does the creator. Going through hard times and coming out the other side, gaining emotional experience, is part of life. Indeed, this is Neon Cloud’s very concept. “We want our listeners to feel our hope and share it with us,” they said. “Scars are painful, but sometimes they look beautiful.”

“Scar” is available via the Flau records Bandcamp website. For more information, visit www.flau.jp.