My first contact with Cuushe, the Kyoto-born trackmaker, was when I wrote about an updated version of her song 'Airy Me' - from her debut album Red Rocket Telepathy - and the stunning hand-drawn animation that went with it. I've been intrigued since then, but luckily I haven't had to wait very long. For long-time Cuushe fans, however, it's been a long time in the making; Butterfly Case comes four years after her debut, and more than a year after 2012's EP, Girl You Know That I Am Here But The Dream.
However I am happy to report that anybody, fans and newcomers to the music, will be heartily pleased by this dreamworld of sounds that Cuushe has lovingly conjured. It is a blanket of close and comforting sounds that, with the very first sounds, envelops you, takes hold of you. Those first sounds come from 'Sort Of Light', an up-tempo number that soars above the clouds in a post-Balearic kinda euphoria. It encompasses, in general, a dreamy pop sound that is employed with catchy aptitude across the album. For instance, Cuushe's vocals are at their catchiest in 'Butterfly' (you should check out Kidsuke's remix), an uplifting number with a fluttering, kinetic beat, vital bass - almost as if its breathing - decorated with with synth leads that scream their existence in between the chugging rhythm chords. 'I Love You' is a pop song whose edges are undefined, whose sounds bleed indulgently into each other, but whose heart remains the same; an overflow of noise in the chorus here perfectly illustrates the strong emotions that dwell in love.
And shining out as a lovesong, but of the sad variety, is 'I Miss You' - there are wonderful percussion clicks here, giving the beat an understated vibe as the emotion of the song takes over, helped by a slo-house feel mixed with Cuushe's beautiful imploring voice. It's almost an obvious fact about the beauty of her voice, but it really is lovely: in 'Lost My Way' she could almost be crying out for guidance, whereas her voice seems telepathically sent from a dream in 'Twilight' (which I wrote about in more detail last month). At times her voice is as much an instrument as anything else, in 'Steamy Mirror' it weaves in and out of the crackling ambience, the ghostly synth, the blur of sounds.
There can be drama in Cuushe's songs, not just beauty. Although, a well-executed sense of drama - flawless dynamism - is kind of beautiful in itself. 'Twilight', for example, starts slow and humble, but ends as an near-overwhelming cascade of frantic synth and percussion. However, something like 'Swing Your Heart' is all drama: a subtle beat fizzes almost as if it's battling against torrents of rain, the rise and fall of the free-spirit guitars and synths crowd the heart and mind with a beautiful kind of melancholy feeling, and the quasi-anthemic chorus of "Swing your heart…" just leaks emotion. 'I Dreamt About Silence' exalts in a celebration of sound, a swaying field of synth - that gladness you get when you wake up and realise the dream was just a dream. Piano blusters and drums fizz; the build up later in the song, dropping with the resurrection of its icicle-like synths, is stunning.
Even the slow closer, 'Hanabi' ("fireworks" in Japanese), emulates the slow spectacle of a fireworks show, heavy echo on all parts of the percussion giving the sense of many staggering bursts of colour. But there is quiet here, too. Ambient quietude can be found all over the album. In some cases it is almost a sad sense of quiet and stillness, as in delicate 'Lost My Way', with its ever-so-slightly unnerving ambient noises, like frost glistening on the branches of trees, and its beatless nature conjuring the feeling of being lost. And in 'Hanabi', although there's the magic of seeing fireworks for the first time, there is the feeling of empty disappointment that arrives when the show's over. At other times it's not so gloomy, however, like the warm, homely feeling towards the end of 'Steamy Mirror'.
All in all it's one of those albums you put on, listen to all the way through, and sit there afterwards in a daze, like waking up from a dream. I listened to this in the car today and thought that it sounded as if we were travelling in a dream-like bubble, the grey day outside passing us like a faraway blur. And also I now understand the title, Butterfly Case. It's a place where dead butterflies are pinned and look beautiful, despite not moving or being alive anymore. And that's the case (no pun intended) with Cuushe's album; she's taken her emotions, that were vibrant, moving, mutating, and pinned them down in her own butterfly case. Although the very moment of feeling these things is not alive anymore, they have been preserved here beautifully.
It's out now on flau. Get it.