Blending free jazz, Japanese folk and psych rock, Yama Warashi’s music evokes images of the coming of Spring.
Words: Elvis Thirlwell | Photo: Adam Isfendiyar
Translated as ‘small childlike mountain spirit’, Yama Warashi is the brain-child of London-based Japanese musician Yoshino Shigihara. Formed in Bristol in 2015, the band have been steadily accumulating a beauteous catalogue of bewitching avant-pop gems; there’s already two excellent albums and an EP chalked against their name.
Offering their first glimpse of new material since 2018’s Boiled Moon, new single Dividual Individual welcomes new listeners to their magical kingdom – toadstool strewn, anointed by fairies and aflame with technicolour life. Deftly ordained with snaking bass, heaven-caressing violins and phosphorescent synths, Dividual Individual melds free-jazz and Japanese folk with a chorus of psych rock fireworks not dissimilar to the lysergic smarts of Kikagaku Moyo. Two-thirds in, the track melts away into an ambient paradise – picture a time-lapse of sakura buds opening up for Spring, as you lay spread-eagle on a lily-pad and drift downstream into the state of dreaming.
Burning to decode this strange and captivating euphony, Hard Of Hearing met with Yoshino in London on the final leg of her tour supporting Vanishing Twin for a hasty chat; due on-stage imminently to sing with the headliners, there was still ample time to elucidate her life, her music, and the high-browed veganist concepts that inspired the single. The music video was directed by Miki Nakamura.
So you’re from Japan? Whereabouts?
Yoshino: I’m from a small city called Ashiya in-between Osaka and Kobe, I grew up there, moved to Bristol when I was 26, and I’ve been [in the UK] since then. I was in Bristol for a long time then moved to London in 2019.
What brought you to the UK?
Yoshino: I wanted to speak English. I really liked the music from Bristol at that time when I was young; Massive Attack and the trip-hop stuff – Tricky, Portishead. I had a few choices to go and study English, but I thought, “Bristol’s good!”
How would you describe your music to someone who’s not heard it before?
Yoshino: It’s hard. There’s a bit of psychedelia. I think that Japanese folk music is the base of it. But it’s also got so much influence from jazz – I really like free jazz, Alice Coltrane, that kind of thing.
I used to play with a guy from Mauritius [Kushal Gaya], sort of African Punk – [we were called] Zun Zun Egui. I learnt a lot from him because he had lots of Maloya-isms, used a lot from Mauritian music, quite strange triplets. Math Rock, I really like some of that, weird time signatures. The new stuff has a bit of a 70s Japanese cartoon theme tune feeling going in my head, not probably obvious but…
The new song is called ‘Dividual Individual’. Tell us a bit about it.
Yoshino: That came from Susumu [the bass player] from Vanishing Twin. He’s vegan, and he actually introduced Veganism to me! So It’s a song about Veganism. Apparently, vegans don’t eat individuals, but eat dividuals. ‘Individuals’ are, like us – humans, animals; if you cut them in half, they die; you can’t just chop a head off! But leaves, trees, mushrooms.. you can take off a bit, and they’re still alive, so that’s ‘dividual’. Vegans can eat dividuals. That’s the concept.
Find Yama Warashi live on the following dates: The Beacon, Bristol – Nov 20th, Cafe OTO, London – Dec 19th and Astral Festival, Bristol – May 1st.