Eiko Ishibashi returns from her ‘Imitation Of Life’ album with the all new ‘Car And Freezer’. · Ever wondered if you could make an album twice, with completely different lyrics? It’d probably help if you had two completely different languages to draw from and for ‘Car And Freezer’ that’s exactly what Eiko did.
In 2013, Drag City introduced Eiko to the world outside of Japan by way of her first US album release. At that time the label explained that Eiko was an instrumentalist and arranger who had come into writing songs somewhat accidentally. She’s been doing so without further accident since 2006, with a series of acclaimed albums in Japan. Her previous album, ‘Imitation Of Life’, was so developed lyrically that it was in essence a song cycle linked by a science-fiction narrative. This natural evolution in her writing notwithstanding, Eiko has often questioned her role as a creator of songs, seeking some way to be at peace with the song while wondering if it was right that she was the human singing them.
Since each album requires its own approach, the session for ‘Car And Freezer’ provided another chance. In the Spring of 2013, Eiko convened with her band but in contrast with the previous album, she did not come prepared with arranged demos. Instead, she and the band stared unblinking at each other for days, seeking to divine the elusive communal flow for her songs. Actually, Toshiaki Sudo, Hatano Atsuko, Yamamoto Tatsuhisa and Jim O’Rourke all got it right away - make Eiko’s kind of pop music but bring themselves forward in their playing. In this approach, Eiko was drawing from her background of improvised music to inform the direction of her new songs. Guest musicians Shinpei Ruike on trumpet and Daisuke Takaoka on tuba added to this process by playing with sensitivity and focus along with the band. In the booth, O’Rourke also doubled as producer, providing directions for Eiko to choose from while moving forward in her unclear path.
The new approaches clearly paid off: the sound of ‘Car And Freezer’ has a swinging openness, with looser, rolling rhythms that suit the mood of exploration and the sense of introspection that are so much a part of Eiko’s songs. The band’s expertly precise playing is contrasted by their intuitive choices within the songs, which are seized upon by Eiko for mood and colour. And Jim doesn’t hurt the sound a bit by focusing on interesting and unconventional sounds whose presence in the mix help define a sense of the unexpected.
As songs came together, Eiko consulted with singer-songwriter Kenta Maeno for the Japanese lyrics: his words perfectly matched Eiko’s humour and humanity and eye for small details. However, the English words were another matter. A regular listener to music with English lyrics, Eiko recognized the pitfalls of translation and how many nuances could potentially be lost. So she worked on the English version herself with a mind toward solving this problem and in the process found a way to remove herself from the song while coming together with it - all it took was writing and singing in an entirely different language. For this release of ‘Car And Freezer’, we have combined the Japanese and English versions of the record, flowing in and out of the languages to make a unique edition in contrast to the Japanese CD release, which included the English version of the entire album.
“In my hometown, cars and refrigerators were often abandoned and just left lying around. I have always remembered this as the image of a landscape that has inspired my music. I have had the image that even though abandoned, their souls, and those with no life, even with electricity running through them, only regain life when they accept death by throwing themselves into the sea. This was the image that ran through my mind in making this record.” - Eiko Ishibashi, 2014