In my experience the term “multi-instrumentalist” allows a musician to fall into one of two categories, there are those who become a ‘Jack of all trades, master of none’ because they flit from one thing to another without really grasping what their chosen instrument at that time can do, and there is the other who’s musical curiosity is so great that they decide to pick up different instruments because within their musical endeavours they struggle to find anybody who can do what they have in their minds better than themselves.
London-based singer songwriter Koichi Yamanoha sits firmly in the later and his weapon of choice changes as often as the genres he tiptoes between, he deftly sweeps through electronic music, into acoustic folk-tinged ballads, synth led instrumentals before finding a brief home in pop yet it still feels natural and connected.
It’s a brave choice to open and close the album with instrumentals but it enables the listener to hear the album on loop without it feeling like the experience has ended. Pink Floyd did something like this on ‘The Wall’, Coldplay also did this on their 2008 Brian Eno-produced ‘Viva La Vida’ which, in some ways is not totally surprising given that there are moments on Cliffhanger that Brian Eno would be proud of.
Track two is dominated by the sound of an organ, similar to one you would have heard at a fair or carnival accompanying a carousel, once you realise the track is titled ‘Take Me Down To Coney Island’ the choice of organ tone makes total sense. At around the two-minute mark the organ goes up a few keys to become almost church-like, perhaps we’re invited to pray to the Gods of carnival…
The vocal performance of Koichi Yamanoha puts me in mind of the current music of bands emerging from Norway and Iceland, particularly the avant garde band Sigur Ros. It’s wispy, ghostly but sits perfectly on tracks ‘Still Smiling’, ‘Final World War’ and, the albums shining star of a song, ‘Wheel’.
Guest female singers Charlotte Courbe and Dee Sada bring a different angle in their approach to songs ‘Cliffhanger’ and the monotone, spoken worded ‘Orange Coloured Everywhere’ that puts me in mind of Radioheads ‘Fitter Happier’ from OK Computer.
To name Pink Floyd, Coldplay, Brian Eno and Radiohead in the same review must say something about how well this album is put together, there is something within these songs that creep beneath the skin and encourages you to have a repeat listen, I’m not really doing the album justice but I don’t want to give away all of the nuances and quirks this album has, there are Asian-inspired guitar, moments of confusion where you ask yourself “where are we going now?” and plenty to keep your ears and mind happy.
This is the second album (there is also an EP released in 2014) so there is more to discover about this artist and I think it’s well worth buying a ticket and seeing where the ride takes you.
Cliffhanger is out now on Some Other Planet Records