Smile Down Upon Us – Magical breath (from the album Smile Down Upon Us, wiaiwya)
Bright and breezy pop concoctions which we can call quirky and they rescue that word from oblivion by returning to the root, with a playful wide-eyed sense of adventure and a couldn’t give a fuck quality which is endearing all on its own.
Then add the sheer weight of hooks and ideas, musical and lyrical. Here’s some background.
The second album from UK/Japanese group Smile Down Upon Us is released by wiaiwya on deluxe vinyl, in a delightful gatefold sleeve designed by artist Yuji Maruyama, on Record Store Day, April 18 (a CD version is released in Japan soon after). It’s a delicate, intimate, playful record that’s equal parts Cibo Matte pop, Vernon Elliott soundtrack and animated Marc Chagall painting, its music a perfect navigation between childlike wonderment, impish eccentricity and sophisticated intricacy.
Smile Down Upon Us is the duo of London-based multi-instrumentalist Keiron Phelan (littlebow, Phelan-Sheppard, Silver Servants, etc.) and Tokyo-resident singer/electronicist moomLoo. They are assisted on this album by, among others, guitarist/percussionist David Sheppard (Ellis Island Sound, Snow Palms, and Keiron’s erstwhile partner in renowned UK post-rockers State River Widening), cellist Katie English (Isnaj Dui, Doomed Bird of Providence, littlebow) and nomadic sonic alchemist Tui (Orla Wren).
‘Magical breath’ is the perfect example – a shuffling beat of tablas and shakers with looped ukulele plucks forming the backdrop for a meditation on breathing, and still room for an electronic flight of fancy mid-section complete with muted woo hoos. It skips along effortlessly and you skip with it.
Utterly charming and quite beautiful.
*Apparently Phelan and moomLoo have only ever been in the same room together a couple of times which makes the boundary-pushing achievement of this album all the more remarkable.