Spirit Fest, "Mirage Mirage"
Spirit Fest is a supergroup built around acclaimed Japanese duo Tenniscoats, featuring members of Notwist, Jam Money, and Joasihno. If an album could be adorkable, this fits the bill. Mirage Mirage is an album for flower picking and bubble blowing, and it charmed me from the first listen.
Spirit Fest use a treasure trove of odd instrumentation and percussion to assemble their beguiling avant pop songs. The experiment works brilliantly and yields finished pieces that are sweet and pleasant to hear. The whole double disc album is a brisk walk through a studio filled with toy-like instrumentation, including harmonica, kazoo, idly grazed piano, trumpet, recorder or some kind of folk flute, harmonium, triangle, accordion, brushed drum, and a panoply of quirky percussion. To top it all off, most songs include solo or duet vocal tracks exhaled in a puff of smoke, sung in a mix of English and Japanese.
The title song "Mirage" is a standout. The cuckoo whistle and insistent beat makes it sound like a zany clock that never tells the right time. Plucked strings tick the seconds while folky guitars and vocals tell a story of heartbreak. The refrain of "Mirage, Mirage" encircles the cacophony like the spectre of a lost lover.
"Amadoi," my favorite song, sounds like a fawn delicately stepping into the meadow, while the sunlight shimmers its invitation. It consists of the plink-plonk of piano and guitar footsteps, and a warm bed of stately female vocals. "Hi Ma Wa Ri" is a more low key and contemplative, moderately paced song with a touch of swing to it‚Äîfinger snaps and singing along are welcome. Finally with "Saigo Song" the album concludes with a repeated motif. It feels like a nursery rhyme sung in the round with all the joy of group singing.
I haven't heard a folk pop document so warm, gentle, and playful since another supergroup I love, International Airport. Spirit Fest's clever and exploratory compositions present as polished, easily digestible folky pop, with an innocence and levity that evokes a sense of nostalgia for simpler times.