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Prelude to the Sea

  Sur La Mer  

Thirty Ghosts

Release Date:
Reviewed by:
  Brett Spaceman  

Dangerous ground, twee-ness. Not cool. Anyone remember Virginia Astley or Shelleyan Orphan? If you're going for that twee vibe, you had better back it up with a decent sense of irony, or at the very least some damn fine tunes. Sheer Loveliness will get you out of jail if you're twee. But if you fall short, you're in a world of trouble.

Sur la Mer seem to be playing it straight. There's no humour on display here. No kitsch stylizing. Prelude to the Sea is an EP of four instrumental compositions that lean toward chamber, yet also have elements of jazz and minimalism. The project is led by Atsu Nagayama (Boredoms) and comprises trumpet, viola, cello and bass. And yes, it's all very (ahem) twee.

Adagio is the nicest piece here. This one lilts and tilts around a plucky bass, and the cello is rather agreeable. This one could almost be Penguin Café Orchestra. However, diminishing returns set in after Adagio. Lento goes for a more mournful mood. Not bad, but nothing earth-shattering. It's nice. What can I say?

The most interesting element over the whole record is the bass. Bass seems to lead these compositions, which would make sense given that it is Atsu's instrument. As a result, when the bass is pleasant, the EP is pleasant. Conversely, when the bass is confusing, the EP is confusing. And so on.

Most of the time on Prelude to the Sea, the bass is mildly diverting. Do you get what I mean?

This is pastoral stuff - very English summer's day. They should shove a sprig of lavender into each jewel case. These pieces, though, are four or five years old now, but there's a full album slated for the coming year. It will be interesting to see what direction Atsu has taken since writing and recording as Sur la Mer. This EP is not remotely awful. It just fails to make any real impression. I hope she discovers that missing something.

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