Against all odds, Ichiko Aoba has risen to the very forefront of Folk music. Without a large push, major backing, going viral, or any such promotional good fortune, the Japanese singer-songwriter has ascended through pure talent and word of mouth. Even she has seemed surprised at her seemingly ever-growing stature, wondering as to how so many listeners outside of her native country discovered her music to begin with.
It’s certainly a blessing to all of us that have, as, from recent generations, only perhaps Julie Byrne can lay claim to having discovered such beauty in the serene reaches of the genre.
It’s always a wait, then, as to when she’ll deign to reappear with a new slice of what may well be called perfection, with her last proper LP (excluding a soundtrack she provided last year), アダンの風 (Windswept Adan), having arrived in 2020.
While no grand announcement has yet arrived, we’ve been graced with an early, if brief, return. She’s stepped in to provide one of the first releases for Brian Eno’s EarthPercent initiative, founded to aid in the fight against climate change, which credits the Earth itself as a featured songwriter.
Her offering is titled “Space Orphans”, and while it certainly retains the nearly surreal, otherworldly beauty of her best work, there is a stark, melancholy undercurrent to the song, with Aoba’s graceful, all-consuming voice flowing across sublimely reserved instrumentation. As her singing coaxes you into a meditative state, you can’t shake the feeling that, all the while, tendrils are encircling you, pulling you towards some unknowable, heart-wrenching truth.
Listen to the song below, and stay tuned for any further developments regarding Aoba’s work.