For over ten years, top-quality acts have been emerging from the Japanese indie music scene; but Gutevolk stands out even among this group. She debuted in the late ’90s as Hirono Nishiyama (her real name) and has worked as Gutevolk since 2002, beginning with The Humming of Tiny People. Aside from these details, little information about her exists in this language. Only one of her albums, Taiyo no Chandelier (2010), has even come out in the US—and it was a digital release without fanfare. Her music, then, is the sole focus of attention.
And what music. It is child-like, yet intricate. Unique, surprising composition is combined with melodies and lyrics similar to those of a children’s song or lullaby. Her best album might be Suomi (2003), on which electronic, classical and jazz elements blend into a seamless whole that does not fall into a stable genre. However, like all of Gutevolk’s music, most of Suomi can be described as “pop” in the broad sense used by Micachu & the Shapes. She does not experiment for the sake of experiment, but for the sake of generating wonder.
That Gutevolk remains largely unknown in the US is disquieting. Thus far, her biggest exposure has been a song in the (excellent) Wii game Lost in Shadow, which was not itself very successful. A grassroots fanbase in the US seems to be the best hope of bringing more of her albums to this side of the Pacific. Those interested in hearing her work may find several songs embedded after the break. In keeping with the season, her Christmas-themed “Wonder Eden” from Taiyo no Chandelier is among these tracks.
Still Eating Oranges