World's End Girlfriend
Farewell Kingdom

By Elizabeth Wells

 
What a magical recording: this is a beautifully crafted piece of work, from the opening snatches of birdsong and amplified bell tones on Yes to the looped violins and feedback of the last track, Onepiece.

World’s End Girlfriend is Katsuhiko Maeda, whose musical career began at the age of 12 when he started making music with guitar and piano. Apparently he had made around 600 tracks covering every style imaginable by his mid-twenties, and this dedication can be clearly heard on the tenderly wrought compositions on this, his second album.

Maeda is clearly an expert at building and sustaining mood. There are only eight tracks here but the running time is well over 70 minutes, giving him ample time to develop his music and take the listener on a particular kind of journey, which may begin in one place and end in another entirely. Maeda establishes a dream-like or contemplative atmosphere through the use of strings, piano and well-chosen effects, including samples from nature or a child’s voice (Yes again). Then just as inconspicuously he can build in the sharp escalation of feedback and noise, or well-timed beats and breaks to bring the listener up short and alter the mood. Sometimes he does not choose to do this until right at the end of a track, thus lulling the listener into a cosy and false sense of security.

Hallmarks of Maeda’s Japanese background come into play in the delicate vocals of Call Past Rain until the fragility is disrupted by fat beats and vocal fragmentation. The clash of new and old emerges again with the fragmented but hypnotic melodies of Halfmoon Girl, my favourite track. This is an album both tender and robust, and repays repeated attention.
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