Ever since I made the conscious decision that the music I listened to on the radio was not the only music that existed, I have been searching far and wide for music that was ever better than what I had just “discovered.” Call it elitism, call it the burden of desire, call it whatever you wish; all I know is that I’m one of those avid listeners who is constantly searching for a new fix. The high that comes with finding a new band or album and sharing that knowledge with other thralls of eager listeners is like a devastating wonder drug for true sonic scavengers. In Floating World, Anathallo shows just how addictive and invigorating new music can be.
With this album, I think it’s beneficial to know the story surrounding the album. On first listen, the randomly placed Japanese vocals would throw anyone off without knowing why they were there. I would just as soon assume they were rehashing “Mr. Roboto” for the kids because I honestly wouldn’t know any better. It turns out that the album is centered on a Japanese folk tale, Hanasakajijii, which tells of a treasure finding pooch, a jealous neighbor, and mythically poetic justice in the circle of life and rebirth. That may be a lot to swallow, but Anathallo choose to birth third-person commentaries on the tale and divulge them with eloquence. Four centrally-placed tracks are devoted to Hanasakajijii and each novella is delivered with ethereal care and a wavering timbre that adds to the emotional involvement. Squealing brass bursts mix with spiraling columns of Animal Collective-esque choral decadence in this EP-within-an-LP to take us through the thoughts and reactions of each central character along every step, ending (albeit not in track order) with a zenith of staggering beauty “Hanasakajijii Four: A Great Wind, More Ash.”
So what about the rest of the 10 songs that aren’t as self-contained? They may not have a convenient storyline, but they are cut from the same cloth and are just as fulfilling. Anathallo have confessed that their faith plays a role in focusing their craft and Christian undertones do play a substantial part in the rest of the pieces. Now, before you go running for the secular hills, it’s important to understand that even though you may realize the Biblical inspirations, it is not an evangelical or preachy collection. Starting with “Genesserat” and continuing with “The Bruised Reed” and “Dokkoise House,” the ideas of forgiveness, redemption, and the role that trust and faith plays in the processes are touched upon with a pen that has a wide range of appeal. It does not hurt at all that the music is exceedingly lush and seemingly conscious. I rarely ever feel like notes will literally grab me, but it happens here with paranormal frequency. The lead vocals give way to a backing choir that sings Japanese in round as trumpets swell and pianos burst at the seams. As we traverse the Floating World, everyone from Mogwai to Erik Satie to Tripping Daisy guide us along with their collective compass to direct us down the path less traveled. The percussion provides the pulse to the journey, emitting tribal pulses (“Kasa No Hone”) and trickling down like rain (“Ame”).
If you’re not well-versed in certain stories of Christian faith, it may not resonate on as many levels; however, if nothing else, the songs speak to leaps of faith, risk, and inspiration that drive us all in every facet of our daily lives. In fact, the band has touted that it is essentially impossible to separate faith from art, but that it is not necessary for faith to prescribe art lest you unwillingly discriminate about who should and should not be able to receive your art appropriately. In the modern state of secularism and combative views on pedagogical music, it is quite a powerful stance to foster and assume. That being said, the scopes held within these tunes are of varying significance, and Anathallo simply amplify the human experience through the lens of metaphor, prose, and allegory.
Oh, the joy! Oh, the rapturous excitement! I have simultaneously come across a hidden diamond in the rough and had life breathed into me through some of the most visceral music I have heard in a long time. Floating World may not be a religious experience, but it certainly warrants exaltation. If you can find it and give it a chance, transfiguration is both a threat and a promise.
Release date: June 6, 2006
Label: Artist Friendship
Rating: 9.2 / 10
On the web: http://www.anathallo.com
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