Grimm Grimm – Hazy Eyes Maybe
ATP Recordings
5 out of 5

Occasionally fractured and almost always fragile, the debut solo album from Koichi Yamanoha quite possibly poses more questions than it answers. Having left his former band the psych-punk trio Screaming Tea Party behind, Hazy Eyes Maybe sees Yamanoha forgoing the noise and chaos of his previous venture in favour of a subtler, more nuanced approach to his craft. Inspired equally by his interest in classical music, as well as his preoccupation with dreams and memories, Hazy Eyes Maybe is a wistful and often melancholic record which doesn’t so much run towards its conclusion as gently meanders; the soft twists and turns mirroring perfectly the machinations of Yamanoha’s mind.

In lesser hands, the bizarre amalgam of folksy guitars, space-age soundscapes and wispy vocals might appear contrived, and in the worse cases, even pretentious, but in the hands of Yamanoha they feel fluid and natural. And though initial listens suggest Hazy Eyes Maybe to be fragile to the point of transience, it soon becomes clear that the concepts it deals with are both deeper and more otherworldly than first anticipated. Previous single Kazega Fuitara Sayonara (Goodbye When the Wind Blows), expresses the importance of living in the moment, whilst the titular track recounts a recurring dream about an abandoned industrial area of Budapest where Yamanoha saw a woman who looked like she had no face pushing a wheelchair near a hospital.

Not so much a dark record, as one which bubbles with an inherent and beautiful melancholy, Yamanoha has managed to encapsulate an essence of his native Japan; the pervading scent of cherry blossoms flowing seamlessly through the record’s first four tracks (track five bringing about the first, and only, stumble). Though conceptually perfect in its depiction of childhood dreams, of living in an abandoned theme park and a lighthouse, Last Word is Mine borders on the vaudevillian in its delivery, the waltz of a carousel organ that propels the track forward feels ill-fitting with that which it proceeds, though thankfully the finger-picked intricacies of the aforementioned title track soon brings the focus back around.

The record’s heaviest moment comes in the form of Bo Ningen collaboration Knowing, the uncompromising bass thud a consistent and invasive presence throughout. But even then, a subtle and optimistic synth line builds from nowhere, providing the silver lining to the record’s darkest cloud. And therein lies the beauty of Hazy Eyes Maybe and what makes it the almost perfect record it is. Appearing both psychedelic and grounded in reality at the same time, it treads the rare path of managing to make that which is conceptual almost tangible whilst transcending the most human of emotions in to something much more.

Dave Beech