Gurun Gurun Gurun GurunGurun Gurun
The first time you listen to Gurun Gurun, especially if you knew of the existence of previous projects like Piana, the logical reaction would be to get ready to enjoy a work of delicate electronic j-pop like those put out on the labels Noble, 12k and occasionally Morr Music or Hobby Industries: noticeably fragile music, with an almost obscene delicacy, shining beauty, and an enchanting naïveté. It is music that sounds as if a group of child virtuosos below the age of ten had learned to play instruments in a conservatory while getting doctorates in computer programming. “Gurun Gurun” sounds just like this, without adding or subtracting a single nuance, note, or electronic effect. It is a fusion of the organic and the digital in a collection of whispered songs, decorated with glitches, clarinet notes and a childlike touch from the first to last second of the album, just like those import albums we’re lucky enough to find from time to time in specialised shops such as Other Music, which make you want to buy a one-way ticket for as soon as possible to Narita airport.
The big surprise comes when you discover that Gurun Gurun have never set foot in Japan in their lives and they have not a single Japanese gene or distant relative. This is the same surprise that Ian Hawgood, the head of the delightful label Home Normal, got when he received samples of the album in the mail, discovering that it was exactly the type of j-pop material that he wanted to release, and later realising that Jara Tarnovski and Tomas Knoflicek were citizens of the Czech Republic, even though they were well versed in the Japanese sound that artists more or less well-known in the West, such as Gutevolk, Kazumasa Hashimoto or Midori Hirano , have been working on for years. Tarnovski and Knoflicek form a part of Miou Miou, a band that isn’t Japanese, but which is put out by the Japanese label Rallye. In Gurun Gurun, taking advantage of contacts and a team of Czech collaborators (including musicians from the classical music arena), they have sought to render an honest, modest homage to a sound that is already recognisable all over the world, but which we believed could only come from Osaka, Tokyo and, exceptionally, from the capital of Iceland, Reykjavik.
This album does away with the stereotype that the Japanese copy (and later adapt), Western customs, fashion, and music. Gurun Gurun is just the opposite: the copying from the heart of Europe of a sound that is identifiable with the oriental version of digital pop. There is no nuance of differentiation, it could be an album by Piana or any other of those Japanese oddities that Taylor Deupree released on the 12k sub-label for j-pop, Happy. The feeling of imitation increases when you see the names of the guest stars for “Gurun Gurun”: besides studio musicians, which add a chamber or neoclassical touch, the three guest voices asked to adorn the songs are three of the main figures of this Japanese milieu, the ones that have most reached the ears of fans in New York, Berlin, and Barcelona. There is Moskitoo, known for her albums on 12k, and who is in charge here of putting a brightly-coloured ribbon on “Fu” and “Ano Uta”. Then we have the multifaceted Sawako –also on 12k and Anticipate, halfway between childlike pop and crystalline ambient– who gives the necessary sighing to “Yume No Moi” and “Yuki – Hawaiian Snowflake”. Also worthy of mention is Rurarakiss, responsible for making “Kúkó” and “Kodomo” seem as if they were about to break at any moment.
“Gurun Gurun” is a choral album on which many hands have participated, and which is completed by remixes by Kora Et Le Mechanix and the Danish Opiate, but which seems to have been created by a single person, with some Japanese Lolita stick on software and a fine-tuned melodic hypersensitivity. A small jewel, which is disconcerting as one comes to understand its genesis, and whose strange source only adds greater value to it. It isn’t the best digital j-pop album of all time, it’s clear, but as a first European contribution to a genre alien to it, Gurun Gurun surpasses all expectations. It’s a fake that is better than many originals.