Smany “Polyphenic” (Bunkai-kei records)

Last year, netlabel Bunkai-Kei records made a big deal about singer Smany’s debut album “komoriuta.” It released a video trailer for it, along with calling up some of the more prominent names in Japan’s online-music scene to remix songs from it. A year later, her latest Bunka-Kei offering hasn’t been nearly as hyped up — “Polyphenic” sort of just appeared with little fanfare on the Website. The album deserves far more praise, however, as it finds Smany improving across the board from “komoriuta.”

Most of the songs on her sophomore outing are slow, electronic-bordering-on-ambient affairs highlighting the artist’s rich vocals. On opener “Himitsu” (“Secret”), a sparse piano backdrop allows her to stretch her words out, adding warmth to an otherwise chilly track. Primary producers Hypo77 and foel. keep most of the songs on “Polyphenic” bare bones, so that Smany’s voice (and, in the case of “2113,” her singing-speaking combo) gets all the attention. Whereas “komoriuta” ultimately went overboard on the remixes, this second outing puts emphasis on all of Smany’s strongest abilities. It also hints at one intriguing new direction — on the Hypo 77-arranged “music,” Smany tries out twinkling pop, her vocals focused and leading to an easygoing but catchy chorus. This direction might be worth even more attention in the future. (Patrick St. Michel)

Smany’s “Polyphenic” is available for download at the Bunka-Kei records website: www.bunkai-kei.com/release/bk-k_043.

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