words by maria sledmere
There are certain hours which are lost to the ordinary day: hours we try holding to the light, but like glassels—stones which look shiny in water but lifelessly dull when dry—we struggle to recapture their initial sheen. These hours might exist in the insomniac dawn, waiting while the pale milky sun makes ruin of our last ardent pull upon sleep. Tominaga’s new album, Pain is Mine, trades effortlessly on the beautiful melancholy of such moments. It offers up a synaesthetic world of sound collages, classical progressions and joyful melodies stretching sorrowful lyrics.
Opening track, ‘A Song for Blue Witch’, begins with eerie trip-step fairytale corridors, where Natsumi Tominaga’s euphonious tones provide the purple thread through distorting floors and walls, the percussive synth glisters of shadows and light. Title track, ‘Pain is Mine’, is the record’s strangely sanguine centre, an earnest and bluesy clustering of cool keys, trilling woodwind and sax flourishes. It feels like dancing extravagantly in an empty casino, where every stroke of the limb falls in sync with the flashing lights; feels like watching the sky materialise after hiding for a long time, waiting for things to refresh and change.
Rejuvenation is the order of the album, with ‘Bamboo Rain’ and ‘La Mer’ providing more instrumental excursions across eclectic soundscapes of brass, electronic beats and dramatic strings. There are moments of quietude, moments of soaring. Moments of upbeat, shuffling drums and jazzy sprinkles of piano, the scattered plink of a xylophone like so many droplets upon water. Moments that sweep you away with gorgeous ambient tones, but just enough to leave reality’s pixellated colours still shimmering underneath. In this sense, the music matches Charlotte Forbes’ cover art: an impressionistic portrait of a pensive girl, the erasures of her bodily form revealing the sea underneath, all bubblegum pinks, blues and acid greens. Pain is Mine equally makes use of its negative space, its impasto scratches of instrumentation. The effect is less mercurial than kaleidoscopic: creating a reflective mosaic of tones; of moods shifting in and out of focus, leaving us chewing our pastille daydreams. Who are we when we let in pain, wonder, the sheer joy of observation?
Satisfying and experimental, complex and deliciously ephemeral (“today never be yesterday”), Pain is Mine explores where we are when we jump between scenes, lingering in liminal phases of time, impressions, desires. It rewards re-listening: immersing us in its emotive intricacies, its quirky rhythms. As the title suggests, the record takes pride in the bearing of individual sadness—maybe this pride is the lovely shell which retains those pristine hours, keeps them gleaming even when the light goes.