Home Music yumbo: The Fruit Of Errata/間違いの実

yumbo: The Fruit Of Errata/間違いの実

The Fruit of Errata is a generous, 18-track introduction to the work of Japanese indie band yumbo, culled from the four albums they have released since 2003. Formed in 1998 around multi-instrumentalist and singer Koji Shibuya, the band’s music is lo-fi, intimate and somewhat twee, but at the same time experimental and not unambitious. Influenced by the experimental pop of the Red Crayola and the more DIY end of the UK indie scene, the result is utterly Japanese and mirrors to an extent the style of Cornelius, or even more so yumbo’s better-known peers Tenniscoats.

Perhaps coincidentally, the compilation begins in more-or-less chronological order, showing how the band’s sound was crystallised in their earliest period, opening with “September Song,” the delicate and melancholy closing track from their debut album Small Hole. A lovely, fragile sound with acoustic guitar, flute and slightly wavering female vocals, it has a warmth and intimacy, although the lyrics will remain mysterious to non-Japanese speakers. “A House,” from the band’s earliest release, a promo CDr EP, follows with a more elaborate and soulful but even more ramshackle sound. The tune is immediate and catchy, but the piano, vocals, drums, trumpet and trombone(?) never quite gel with each other in a way that is – if you are open to such things – completely charming and has something of the sound of the UK’s C86 indie bands like The Pastels and BMX Bandits. There’s a marked ‘60s influence elsewhere, with the jazzy but Beatlesque flavour of the downbeat shuffle that is the title track, enhanced by Shibuya’s unassuming vocals. As elsewhere, the band’s music is deceptively complex; its lo-fi, homemade sound and often uncertainly-pitched brass and woodwind – and unashamedly untrained and even off-key vocals – mask the fact that the music is sophisticated in its layers and arrangements.

The texture of the band’s music is often unexpected, and despite its apparently unambitious sound, it can be quite daring. “Lonely” must be one of the very few pop songs to open with the peculiar combination of just trombone and voice, but it has a spare, melancholy beauty that persists even when the whole group comes in sounding something like a Salvation Army brass band. One of the few, but not the only one– “The Sweetest Mass” does something similar, although its mood of wistful regret is quite different and the music has more of a jazzy feel. Completely different, yet strangely similar, “Since a Certain Day, Others” is perhaps the ultimate example of yumbo’s professional unprofessionalism. The music has beautifully captured textures of acoustic guitar, bass and trumpet and the tune could almost belong to the soundtrack of some chic French new wave ‘60s movie, but everything is just slightly off – and it’s all the more charming for it. “Since a Certain Day…” and “Lonely” are among several songs that really exemplify the yumbo sound. Loose, warm and sometimes improvisational, yumbo’s music has the very human, communal feel of early Belle and Sebastian, but with its own distinctively Japanese atmosphere and character.

For a band whose sound is so obviously that of a group of people, there’s an oddly vulnerable feel that seems intimate and personal, aided by the fact that the close-miked vocals reduce the distance between singer and listener to zero. Although the band’s discography charts a growing sense of musical confidence and skill, yumbo have so far sensibly chosen not to add a slick finish to their work. That means that even their most accomplished songs, like the mournful two-part “Come Away, Death,” still have a warmly immediate appeal. Conversely, even their simplest, most direct songs – like the charmingly childlike “Cake” and the strange, minimalist honking/clanking and vocal of the home-made sounding “Raining Stones” – sound like sophisticated music being played uncertainly, rather than being truly amateurish compositions. They are all the more warm and affecting for it. Indeed, it’s hard to think of much else in music that sounds like “Raining Stones,” aside perhaps from some of the more stark and understated music put out by the eccentric musical genius Eifonen on his Rorex label – perhaps not coincidentally, also Japanese. Again, not understanding the language, it’s hard to say what such songs are about, but the mystery has its own appeal and music itself is after all a conductor of meaning as much as or even more than lyrics are, and the song’s pervasive mood of bruised melancholy is hugely effective.

The Fruit of Errata is intended an introduction to yumbo’s work – and it is a very good one; but although it will hopefully convert new listeners to the band’s cause there’s a good chance that for some it may be the only yumbo album they ever need. There are further gems to be found among their albums for sure, but they are essentially more of the same and the band’s combination of ramshackle arrangements, twee lyrics and slightly off-key vocals will be immediately annoying to many. But the band’s good and bad points are indivisibly one and the same, and while anyone unconvinced by yumbo at their most conventional may despair at the barely-togetherness of their least focused work, those who fall in love with it will take it to their hearts.

Summary
A fantastic introduction to the unique world of yumbo’s lo-fi indie pop; but its sweetness will grate for some.
80 %
Lo-fi charm

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