World Standard

The Isle

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A collaboration, but not entirely -- it's more an interwoven effort split between the work of World Standard, aka Japanese musician Sohichiro Suzuki, and Wechsel Garland, German performer Jorg Follert, who traded various elements by mail. The Isle shifts back and forth between the two, each exploring in his own way the kind of post-Beach Boys bliss pop that became commonplace in the '90s. The emphasis is much more on the melancholic instrumental contemplation conjured up in the post-Smile days of that band, though, with piano, strings, marimba, and more, used by both artists, conjuring up a hazy never-never land of tropical wonder. Follert's "A Found Chart" revolves around slightly queasy strings and gentle acoustic guitar, and Suzuki's "The Whale" has a soft, haunting lead melody that suggests Brian Eno more than Brian Wilson. There's jaunty humor in amid the careful reflection, though -- Follert's "The Long Walk" jumps along in a low-key way -- but the latter quality is what dominates. It's not meant to be a pure retro exercise by any means, though -- consider the glitchy stuttering in Suzuki's "Dandelion Wine," suddenly spiking the slow cool flow of the arrangement, or how a similar treatment to the guitar for Follert's "Octant" provides a jittering pulse to the track. Singing is rare but when it appears often adds a lovely emotional edge to things -- Follert's slightly double-tracked vocals on the increasingly nervous "The Harbour," the almost Steve Albini-like drum punch on "Two Different Visitors." There's one full collaboration -- the title track itself, a hint of a sea shanty in the main synth melody as a soft, playful keyboard adds a gentle rhythm. Simple, lullaby-like perhaps, but all done with enjoyable effect.

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