Think Stereolab, The Sea and Cake and The Postal Service but way more gentle and full of wonder. Miki Moondrops makes its debut like a delicate, dewy summer dawn. Titled Vegetable Head, this release caters to the adventurous headphone audience.
Known mostly for her jazz bass abilities, Miki Masuda makes her singing debut with instrumental support from project creator David Lord. Lord explored arrangements that included synth, accordion, bass and guitar, all performed by Lord himself. Ben Snook, occasional collaborator with Lord, contributed some electronic percussion elements. Often employing acoustic guitar and electronic drum patterns, the arrangements on Vegetable Head are bouncy and carefree. There is no hard kick drum or snare whack. There's only one distorted guitar and no vocal above a whisper. This is cotton-ear-candy that "Fred Hats" (album opener) and "Vegetable Head" (from which the album is named) are perfect examples of. The plush mix of Miki Moondrops is the result of Micajah Ryan's expertise under the conceptual direction of Lord. The mix and master makes for a velvety listening experience—like audio fleece.
Many songs are so fluffy that it feels like a Kansas wind might blow the piece away. To avoid that potential, I will reiterate: this is a mix meant for headphone listening. In "We Are Bathing the Plants," the musical base is a panned musical loop built on what sounds like bird chirps in one ear, a gnome coughing in the other ear and a moth fluttering up the middle. The song is a slow build up to a gentle electronic bouncing over the repeated "We are bathing the plants," whisper-chanted by Masuda.
"Invisible Petals" features cascades of overdubbed acoustic guitar, like fingerstyle waterfalls. Masuda has sparse vocals over this tiny piece, placed in the middle of this ten song release.
The guitar tracks on "Leaves For Eyelids" sound more recognizably Lord, while "Woodpecker Sparkles" is a departure for the artist. A large cacophony is conjured toward the end of the song and explores a sonic density not revisited on this 38 minute release from Air House Records.
Like Christmas lights on a windy porch, the guitars on "Plankies" dance around Masuda's voice like fireflies over a gentle stream.
The album closer, "Tree Muffles," starts out clunky and gets a bit more clunky before refocusing and introducing the vocals and that distorted guitar mentioned earlier. Vocal rounds and lush guitar textures move like mist through a pastel forest.
Guitars are found on every song, but the album does not have a guitar-centric feel. Layers of other instruments including bells, electronic elements, non-guitar-sounding guitars and synthesizers make for an instrumental density that allows for tiny musical discoveries upon repeat listens.
Much of this debut release by Miki Moondrops is playful, though not to be confused with child's play. In contrast, Masud's voice is sweet and dark, making Vegetable Head a healthy choice for a balanced listening diet.