Noah’s ‘Sivutie’ Envelopes Listeners in Sad, Starry-Eyed Ambience (Review)

For those times when you just want to lose yourself in some sad, nostalgic, starry-eyed ambience for an hour or so.
Sivutie, Noah

Earlier this year, Ayuko Kurasaki, who records under the “Noah” moniker, released the Mood EP, which blended downtempo atmospherics with elements of R&B and hip-hop. Mood was intended as a precursor for Sivutie, her debut album. But on Sivutie, Noah has stripped any such rhythmic elements to their most skeletal while making her atmospherics — which are uniformly composed, pristine, and elegant — even more expansive.

For example, the emphasis in “Flexion” is clearly on the shimmering, dub-like waves of electronics and vocals while the sparse beats are left to echo distantly in the background. But the song still achieves an emotional heft within its 5 minutes, as those waves of sound build and crest and fade away.

“Unspoken” is one of Sivutie’s strongest tracks; not coincidentally, perhaps, it veers closest to Mood’s aesthetic. While the song still oozes stylish atmosphere, the beats are a bit more pronounced (though still drenched in reverb), as are Noah’s daydreaming vocals. Meanwhile, string-like tones cartwheel around the song’s edges, lending a playful note to the song’s otherwise cool vibe.

“Fehér” and “Times” recall Múm at their most child-like, all toyboxes and chimes and cooing vocals (sometimes in Japanese, sometimes in English, and sometimes in pure glossolalia). Meanwhile, “Pool Garden,” the aptly titled “Blur,” and “Tadzio” contain the album’s most ambient moments. Here, Noah’s sonics are cut free from any rhythmic ties and constraints, and left to drift wherever they may. (Fittingly, the album’s title translates into “side road” in Finnish.)

Individually, such songs are lovely enough. “Blur” adds an ominous undercurrent to Noah’s otherwise bright, shimmering sounds, which lends some gravity. But for better or worse, the song blurs (npi) right into the surrounding tracks. The result is an album that is certainly an entrancing and haunting listen, even as its 15 songs can suffer from a lack of individual personality and blend with each other. (One noteworthy exception is “(Interlude — Doll),” a gorgeous, gently melancholy piano piece that wouldn’t at all be out of place in a Hirokazu Koreeda film.)

However, that’s a trade-off that Noah seems perfectly comfortable with on Sivutie, and it certainly allows the album to conjure up quite a sense of mood and space. If you’re looking for an album filled with sad, nostalgic, starry-eyed ambience that you can just lose yourself in for an hour or so, then Sivutie is what you’re looking for — and I suspect you’ll be comfortable with her trade-off, too.

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