Band names usually offer the merest suggestion of what kind of music they will produce. In a rare exception, Japanese female duo Ikebana are named after a form of flower arrangement. This naturally suggests art and delicate beauty, which is something Maki and En turn out to be very good at, in sonic terms at least. ‘When You Arrive There’ is their second release and one which could be classed as minimalist dreampop.
Perversely, the album begins with ‘Ends’, where even the opening the sample of clanging bells suggests some kind of finality. Then reverb-heavy guitars emerge, caught halfway between the effects of Cocteau Twins and July Skies’ levels of fragility. The songs here are apparently simplistic in arrangement but complex in emotional impact. Witness the ringing, strumming guitars of ‘Alone’ set against the melancholic vocals and try not to be moved by the lonely echoes of the song or marvel at the way Maki and En harmonise like restless ghosts for ‘Rose’. ‘Kiss’, the longest track, builds from a timid romantic ballad to a strident, hypnotic finale. Other tracks are barely there in terms of structure but the impact of them is still strong. The track ‘Ikebana’, for example, would sound like a demo track to the untrained ear but after a few listens each key change seems startling and vital; like we’re hearing the advent of a new era for experimental music.
‘When You Arrive There’ draws parallels in both spirit and sound with A.R. Kane’s first album ’69’. It possesses those same elements of fragments of song, mysterious, dreampop arrangements and an ethereal beauty which is wholly mesmerising. With reference to the album title, one feels Ikebana have arrived there already.
A.R. Kane, July Skies, Cocteau Twins