When one sees both Takahiro Kido and Yuki Marata among the band members, one wonders, “is Films an offshoot of Anoice?” The answer is yes, but Films is more of a first cousin than a sibling or a child. The strings form a connection between the groups, but the two talented female vocalists dramatically alter the timbre. Their inflections range from the whispered to the operatic, echoing the glory days of 4AD and its diverse female-fronted bands.
It’s hard not to view a forbidden garden as a concept album, but the concept is not immediately apparent. The website description reads “Even if the world is covered in darkness, I will continue to sing”, which is a contemporary riff on both Maya Angelou (“I know why the caged bird sings”) and Robert Wadsworth Lowry (“What tho’ the darkness gather round … how can I keep from singing?”). This darkness may be either physical or spiritual, and Japan has experienced both brands of darkness in recent years. Every creative expression thus becomes a statement of light.
After a lovely opening track, a meld of piano, electronics and strings, the album presents its first surprise: the “give it to me, give it to me” utterances of “lost field”, balanced by a series of soprano arpeggios. The vocals pass from speaker to speaker; the bass thumps; the piano goes wild. At nearly 140 b.p.m., the song seems ripe for a remix. This isn’t what we expect from Films, but it serves its purpose; for the rest of the album, the listener is primed for new experiences. These often arrive in brief interludes (the military snare march of “control” ), but also visit the edges of tracks (the mid-song onomatopoeia and late-song radio static of “they pass in front of me”). By virtue of its name, Films is cinematic; but it’s heartening to see the band coloring outside the lines.
Rock, post-rock and modern classical sounds co-exist on a forbidden garden. While one can imagine many of the tracks presented without vocals – for example, the lush “once upon a time” – the tandem singing raises the album to a higher level. Still, instrumental fans will not be disappointed. Films’ music is powerful throughout ~ and late in the album, the band presents a pair of vocal-free tracks: the moody, electronic “sleepless town”, followed by the brief but effective “nostalgic hill”.
If a song is heard in the darkness, then the darkness seems more like light. This album provides a lantern to the lost. (Richard Allen)