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Nagisa Ni te - The Same as a Flower

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Artist: Nagisa Ni te

Album: The Same as a Flower

Label: Jagjaguwar

Review date: Aug. 12, 2004

When reading translations of Nagisa Ni te’s lyrics, written by core members Shinji Shibayama and Masako Takeda, one is repeatedly struck by their seeming ordinariness, their desire to expose the quotidian in their alchemical coupling. Capturing the everyday sublime in music is a hard task, but Nagisa Ni te’s resolve is just that: the epiphanies found in the intimate moments shared between lovers, the observations made walking together through nature, the knowledge of each other's responses and contours. In some ways, a new Nagisa Ni te record is a fairly predictable offering - Shibayama and Takeda repeatedly mine the same areas, both lyrically and musically.

But when a band is able to configure similar elements into a set of songs as affecting as this new album, this 'repetition' represents not stagnation, but comfort and self-confidence. Given free reign by the familiarity of surface elements, Nagisa Ni te songs delve further into Shibayama and Takeda’s life and experience. The Same as a Flower is as brave a record as its predecessors, although it is perhaps not quite as brash as 2001’s Feel, being more stately of design. The album is dotted with several remarkably beautiful moments, such as when "Bramble"’s laconic pace induces everything but a meandering Fender Rhodes piano to fall asleep, while the Rhodes worries over a repeating phrase - the effect is one of incredible tranquility, a music unafraid of taking its time. "Bramble" feels like the record's notional centerpiece, with mellotron orchestras spilling all over the song.

Similarly, the electric guitar that plucks a series of muted chords through "River" is eventually all but blotted out by multi-tracked swarms of vocals, Shibayama and Takeda spinning in chorused tandem. When the song first appeared on the band's acoustic album from the late-1990s, Tai yo no sekai, it sounded naked, with Shibayama and Takeda's vocals a cracked shiver. But here it sounds confident and warm. If Nagisa Ni te’s music, drawing from '70s auteur-pop (Eno, Manzanera, Anthony Moore), the Rough Trade label's post-punk ethos, mid-80s Paisley underground (Rain Parade, Opal), and beyond, doesn't effect much ‘stylistic’ change, you can hear that the duo have put an almost inordinate amount of thought into arrangement. The Same as a Flower is their most realized recording yet, with all kinds of details punctuating the songs.

The heart of Nagisa Ni te’s music, then, remains the same - a completely unpretentious, unaffected form of pop music that documents Shibayama and Takeda’s continually unfolding relationship. In lesser hands, such sentimentality would come across as clichéd and trite, but Nagisa Ni te’s illumination of the simplicity of love is utterly convincing.

By Jon Dale

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