Tuesday, December 22nd, 2020

Ichiko Aoba – Porcelain

Speaking of vibes, Dylan believes we’ll enjoy this one…


Juana Giaimo: I listened to “Porcelain” for the first time last night, just before I was going to go to sleep and I thought it was lovely, like a caress before a good rest. A few hours later, my dog woke me up and didn’t let me fall back asleep until 6 a.m. Today, I’m feeling deeply tired and as I listen to this again, I feel this song isn’t as calm and soothing as it seemed last night, but that it features so many elements that my mind is quite confused. It’s delicate like porcelain — and like sleeping.

Ian Mathers: There’s “puts you to sleep” in the sense of boring, or soporific, or even narcotic. And then there’s “puts you to the sleep” in the sense of you’ve been wandering in these woods for a surprisingly long time now, and while you’re much more used to resting in a bed the light is hitting this clearing in a way that some part of you dimly registers as suspicious under normal circumstances, and that particular patch of moss in the center of that ring of mushrooms looks so soft and comforting… all of is which to say “Porcelain” is beautiful, but I’m in no particular hurry to give my true name to anyone involved in creating it.

Austin Nguyen: I wish I could go back there, to that dream of yesteryear, but this is what I have left of it, the fragments I’ve tried gluing back together like “Porcelain”: The cymbals plunged and vanished quickly, like a head dunking itself into water after a sharp inhale. There were white specks, barely imperceptible, illumined by the sparkles of a celeste. Gravity put its hands around me with the smallest pluck of a contrabass string, and yet I felt weightless, guided to the clouds by the arpeggios of a harp. Through the guitar-distorted refractions of the water and a thin film of foam, I could see the flute-flutters of a bird’s wings, touching the water to create the smallest ripple. The sunlight hit the water in distinct rays, waltzing with the motion of the waves; if you danced with them, you could feel the slightest caress of warmth, like the tender stroke of a bow’s hair against the string of a violin. It was as if the ocean laid me down in its own secret cradle, one I could’ve stayed in forever, and I think I almost did. I think I stayed there long enough to see what the stars looked like underwater. But I had to go back up to the surface eventually, set my feet back onto the shore; I had to wake up. It breaks again, and I glue it back together one more time, even if just for four more minutes of bliss.

Frank Falisi: The feeling you get days after a snowfall when you welcome the sun but you don’t want it too too warm. The way you see the landscape changed over under all this fine film and don’t want to bounce back too quick. The bird you watch from the window plucking which seeds the bird likes and which the bird doesn’t. All of this and none of it, just pluck and a coo, a chime, the world.

Dylan Graves: A culmination of the musical distance Ichiko’s traveled so far, “Porcelain” sounds like a slightly warmer Vespertine outtake.

Thomas Inskeep: A dreamy record at the intersection of new age and folk — think Michael Hedges with a high, clear female vocal — that, apart from its strings, sounds very mid-1970s private press. The finger-picked guitar is especially lovely.

Katherine St Asaph: The faraway drama of the guitar loop recalls Goldfrapp’s “Simone,” the dramatic sweep likewise Carol Keogh or perhaps David Sylvian, the vocal timbre is fluting like Margo Guryan — all artists I like, all artists who award time and reflection.

Iain Mew: The guitar figure immediately put me in mind of Elbow’s “Great Expectations,” one of my favourite songs, and I might be overreading some of its sodden wonder into “Porcelain” as a result. That said, this is magical — lush and whimsical but with a forward momentum that never lets up under the filigree.

Edward Okulicz: That this is fantastic background music doesn’t mean that it’s not also great foreground music. It’s porcelain in the sense of being finely and delicately crafted, not that itself it might break, and the heir of any number of cinematic pop traditions, such that comparing it to any of them is as trite as it is valid. The important thing is that it’s exquisite. 

Jacob Sujin Kuppermann: It’s easy to be cynical about music when you write enough about it. After you’ve reviewed hundreds of singles (thousands, in the case of some of this site’s writers), it’s easy to see the formulas and patterns of contemporary pop laid in front of your in every individual song. It’s not anyone’s fault — song structures work, and there’s no reason to shy away from them. Instead, it’s up to us as critics to find what is special between the layers of formula. Sometimes, songs make it easy for us. “Porcelain” is one of those times. Over the course of five minutes, Ichiko Aoba transports us, using sonic textures and compositional structures more akin to that of a small contemporary classical ensemble to craft a pop song unlike any other. “Porcelain” washes over you, its waves of sound moving around like the journey Aoba writes of in easy, hallucinatory language. It’s a song like a revelation, a piece that turns more surprising with every passing note.

Alfred Soto: Now this is folk done right: measured not dreamy, precise not flossy. All credit to Ichiko Aoba. 

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