Your Small Story begins as humbly as its title. The art is unassuming, and for the first few minutes, the album dabbles in an unremarkable ambience. But at the 3:04 mark, everything changes. Strings transform the placid opener “Heaven of the universe” into a beguiling classical piece, engaging the listener’s attention and making one curious as to what other tricks Japan’s Masashi Shiraishi might have up his sleeve.
The answers are quick to arrive. “Reciter (Wind Hill)” is an acoustic guitar track, followed by “Little Sister Story”, whose strings, clocks and glitch remind one of the Flau roster. This unexpected combination is as sweet as a sprinkle-covered marshmallow and as nostalgic as a grandparent’s toy box. “Voice of Fancy (One Day in Spring)” adds lyric-free female vocals and music box melodies, cementing the connection. We are traveling through the Land of Wistfulness, where half-remembered tunes stick to the bark of trees like gumdrops on a gingerbread house. For many, this will be too much tweeness, an overload of saccharine. Yet for those with childlike hearts, the addition of a glockenspiel (or more likely, toy xylophone) will cause hands to clap in glee.
The album deepens as it progresses. The flute, snares, winding noises and stuttered electronics of “Your Small Melodys” reference both Pawn and The Boats. Shiraishi is no single-minded composer; his interest is in the expansion of childlike themes to fit adult houses. This isn’t music for children; it’s music for adults in thrall to childhood. This small story even unfolds like a child’s day: slow in the morning, active at noon, quiet at night.
Two of the last four titles reference sunset, although one also mentions sorrow. Hopefully something has been lost in translation, as the closing track is titled “End of Sister”, implying that she has died. Save for the hovering strings of “Lost Angel”, this morbid shadow seems absent from the music. If this album is an elegy, one’s entire appreciation of the music changes; it becomes a graceful memory, a refusal to give into sorrow, an insistence on remembering the playful and happy times. And if this is the case, the album needs a more evocative cover, one that helps the prospective listener to know that her small story might also be our small story, and that tearful mourning is not the only possible response to a brief but meaningful life. (Richard Allen)