New York-based Japanese indie folk group, Robin’s Egg Blue, released a full-length album back in 2015, Circlefield. The album consists of 10 tracks of ambient folk-inspired acoustic and synth music, with chilling vocals and heavy reverbs.
The intro to the album consists of high pitch notes below a breathy and layered vocal. Slowly, more depth is added with lower pitches and what sounds like samples of the wind blowing. It moves into the second track quite fluidly with a sub drop. The vocals lead you in and some semblance of a beat starts to come in; eventually, we begin to hear more familiar sounds, clean guitars and cymbals.
The overall tone of the first few minutes of the album is very relaxed, despite the multiple layers of synths, live instruments and harmonised vocals. Speaking of which, I can hear lyrics but I’m not sure what they are, the vocals in most places are very pleasant and almost calming; however, a few notes seem a little high and uncomfortable. Within a few minutes of the same song, I suddenly lose my calm and I’m in a club with loud repetitive beats, which is certainly a turn I wasn’t expecting.
The album continues in much the same way, heavy use of synths, reverbs blended with live instruments. The vocals seem to fly between mid to high ranges, and the background to that continues to confuse me. I feel this is the kind of band you would find on a Saturday night in a Soho bar swaying to the sounds, almost like regenerated hippy folk.
While this may not be my cup of tea, nor my shot of gin, I cannot in any way devalue the production quality, the mixes are balanced and you get just enough on each side to keep your head flitting to keep up. I also have very little negative to say about the band’s performances. The level of skill that goes into creating such multi-tonal and textured work is amazing, my only dislike is a few of the vocal notes are a little too high.
The song ‘Tarrytown’ has a lot more of that classic folk influence we’re all used to, especially towards the end. There is much less synth and more acoustic instrumentation. It comes with everything folk and sounds a lot more mainstream than the rest of the album. I am still yet to know what vocalist Atsumi is singing about; I’m unsure if it’s intonation or that you’re not supposed to know what the words are, or if I am just not fully hearing it or haven’t heard it enough. Whatever it is, it’s a good job she has a very pretty voice.
I’m gradually getting closer to the end and slowly I start to realise that there is substantially less synthesised sound in the latter half of the album. It all begins to sound like music that would work very well in a film like Juno.
The song ‘Heaven’ really throws me for a loop. It starts with very classical sounding piano, and vocals, and it reminds me of a modern day Cotillion, then boom! It changes again, into a very Bjork style; I think this track is my personal favourite.
I would be very intrigued to see this group live, just to see the presence they have and how they captivate the audience. Overall it is a well-produced, well-performed album. One thing I can say with all certainty is that this album certainly keeps you on your toes. I can’t find one solid concept throughout, which I can only assume is the point, musical freedom. Robin’s Egg Blue certainly like to experiment and I can’t fault that the music they make is very interesting. As I said earlier, not exactly to my taste but not something I would turn over either.