I spent last week travelling around Kyoto city, visiting the stunning temples, shrines, gardens and sampling ramen and sushi in a variety of delightful venues, all before settling in to my more permanent residency for the next five months here in Nihon. Music has played a huge role during this adjustment period, and not just as part of the Ph.D research I am conducting out here, but in the form of a soundtrack to travel with. Of course Japanese music has been on the agenda in all forms from traditional theatre music through to a more contemporary palette, such as Bo Ningen’s acid punk. However, digging into new music picks over recent months whilst preparing for my travels I came across a recent EP from a Manchester electronic duo Acre Tarn, and their debut EP- Clasp and Shake.
Starting to explore the Kyoto scenery accompanied by this EP led me on a journey of escapism and imagined landscapes, created from the music, beyond the physicality of the beauty I was experiencing around me. Even now, sat at my desk in an apartment in the mountain suburbs on the edge of the city, listening to the record, a whole series of developing images come to the fore. In fact my experience fits with the very words that the mysterious duo use when asked about their music:
We are a sum of two halves, founded by chance and brought together to realise our musical craft. We’re not afraid of anything when we unleash our imagination, we love beauty and we want to create something beautiful.
The first time I listened to Acre Tarn’s opening EP track This Once, I found myself sitting inside an atmospheric living room at night, accompanied by the sound of rain falling outside. From its opening the track began to morph into an ambient musical journey. Harmonic vocal layering is well utilised in this track with an ever developing beat that subsides to give way to electro-acoustic soundscapes, and heighten the presences of Anna’s glacial vocals. I love the way the track fades away like the crackling of an old record left to spin.
Circles really showcases a lighter side to Anna’s vocals, there is a fresh feeling to this track that is so elegantly put together with lighter electric musical accompaniment, nicely coupled with a bass beat that thumps through with added lighter drum effects, and other electro-acoustic effects propelling this track forward.
Wishing Bone opens with vocal and drum effects in a tribal like fashion, shifting and building up more and more with different vocal effects. This is a track that uses word painting so well that you hang on to every vocal inflection. Another infectious beat that is carefully crafted with other instrumental entry points and harmonies that you find yourself completely immersed in. Again the track just ends creating a feeling of anticipation as you wait for the next inventive musical number.
Skeleton Key is the final number on the EP and starts with a single vocal line, delivered with echoes. Reverberated instrumental crunches and an ever-developing, throbbing synth beat slowly comes to the fore. Impromptu synth drum beats add further timbral variety to the track with various entry points throughout, and dominating in the latter half.
Acre Tarn are certainly explorers when it comes to this debut, every part of each track so carefully crafted using an array of aural colours and an aptitude for manipulating electronic effects to the duo’s advantage that you cannot help but find yourself listening to the whole EP over and over again when you happen to fall upon one single track. I was certainly glad to share my sightseeing of Kyoto with an equally rich musical experience.
Listen to Acre Tarn’s EP Clasp and Shake here on their soundcloud page. To find out more news and information about the duo visit their website here.
Written by Hannah Bayley