Nagisa Ni Te

Feel (Jagjaguwar)

Japan has a vast well of underground psychedelic music that's virtually untapped by an American public afraid of language barriers and import prices. Over the past few years, however, the Scottish imprint Geographic -- run by indie rock icon Stephen Pastel -- has begun making some of the best albums affordable (if not more palatable). Now, the U.S. label Jagjaguwar has taken up the gauntlet, releasing Feel, the fourth album by longtime folk-psych duo Nagisa Ni Te.

Formed in 1992, Nagisa Ni Te consists of multi-instrumentalists Shinji Shibayama and Masako Takeda. With help from friends such as American percussionist Tim Barnes, the group crafts an intimate sound from its love of American and British rock. Nagisa Ni Te means "on the beach," and Neil Young's saturnine 1975 masterpiece is an obvious starting point for the band, along with the works of George Harrison and Roxy Music. But Nagisa Ni Te isn't overly reverential; instead, the act creates its own form of guileless self-expression by stretching and rearranging past song forms.

While Nagisa Ni Te's ragged vocal melodies are also reminiscent of Western pop, they're sung in Japanese and touch upon Far East tone scales. The heartfelt lyrics (as translated in the liner notes) transcend platitudes by being simple and direct. "Strength of the Wind" declares, "I unlock the chain between words and heart/ So that I can always be with you."

Feel's arrangements strive for simplicity as well. Each track evolves slowly, shifting from spare guitar strumming to majestic melodramatics, with sporadic intrusions of noise. The first tune, "The New World," resembles the work of Minneapolis slocore group Low, as it stumbles on for nine dejected minutes. Immediately afterward, "Song About a River-Crossing Song" shatters the morose delicacy with guitar squalls and soft-rock harmonies. Later, the sweet lullaby "Strength of the Waves" interrupts its pretty wafting melody with a cataclysmic reverb explosion. Nagisa Ni Te often drifts from the linear to the cyclical, as in "Speed of the Fish," a folky tune that becomes a seven-minute one-chord jam.

On the Geographic Web site, www.dominorecordco.com, Tim Barnes recounts a conversation in which Shibayama told him, "I think that you can feel our songs in your heart, even if you cannot understand [the] Japanese language." Beyond its record collection, Nagisa Ni Te gives the listener something to Feel. Buy this album and watch the restrictive boundaries of world music disintegrate before your eyes.

 
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