The Japanese folk singer and songwriter Ichiko Aoba returns to the music scene in 2020 with a new album, Windswept Adan.

After her last 2018 project qp, the artist renews herself by releasing a project more complex and rich in both production and songwriting. She abandoned the guitar-and-voice folk simplicity to go full chamber-folk, with strings, harps, and layers of synthesizers in some songs.

Between dream-pop and the Studio Ghibli soundtracks

Hearing the album for the first time, the listeners will find themselves in a strange place both emotionally and psychologically. In fact, the tracklist oscillates between musical landscapes very akin to the Studio Ghibli movies’ soundtracks and atmospheres (Parfum d’étoiles, PorcelainEaster Lily) and more dream-pop ethereal and oniric soundscapes (Pilgrimage, Hagupit).

Soothing harmonies and marvelous serenity

These songs convey a sense of profound calm, almost a zen-balanced type of serenity. At the same time it can sound enigmatic and distant, as if Ichicko Aobawas trying to express the angular feelings and memories abandoned in some remote alcove of the human soul.

Her voice, shifting from a whisper-like singing style to a more operatic and magnificent tone, is from the beginning to the end of the record a healing chant.

It’s a strangely cathartic device for the listener to touch the human psyche’s forgotten sides and regenerate them. And in a pandemic or troublesome times, this record becomes a perfect balm for the mind, as it doesn’t just try to make the listener’s mind escape from the harsh reality. But it makes it resonate again in unison with the world.

A pilgrimage much needed

The tracklist sets off with the Prologue. The listener can hear Ichiko’s siren-like vocals over a digital spacious drone, which immediately does soak them in the mood of the record.

Pilgrimage presents operatic vocals instead, over a flow of harps and strings in the background. The melody is simple but incredibly driving and the tracks oscillate between meditative moments and explosions of sounds.

Easter Lily stands out for the gentle singing and for the nostalgic guitar arpeggio in the background. All graced by the refined jazzy chords progression.

The title track Windswept Adan on the second half of the record provides an up-tempo moment. With a faster guitar work and a melody that’s more strange and oracular than it is calm and soothing.

While the last track Adan no Shima no Tanjyosai is a whispered and stripped-out ballad. It leaves room for some minutes of pure sea sounds, providing a perfect and much-needed conclusion for this pilgrimage.