Hiroyuki Usui - Sings the Blues [VHF; 2014]
Usui takes one step more toward a true reveal. Once a member of pivotal (well, to particular American audiences) Japanese groups such as Ghost and Fushitsusha, Usui’s legend was entrenched early among a growing avant garde by its slow emergence from passed around magazines toward the end of the 90s. As L, Usui began blending traditional Japanese folk with not-so traditional techniques and applications that produced the heavy (in spirit) Holy Letters. Collaborating with Ben Chasny, Usui clung to the rawer sounds of his oeuvre while also giving more of himself to his partner and audience.
Sings the Blues, which boasts most of Usui’s given name, goes further. Some of these tunes were offered to Chasny for a long anticipated follow-up to August Born’s first LP, but these confessional strands are best kept as Usui revelations. It’s a stark gamut, with much of the album a practice in solitude. Usui strums or beats a pattern, often offering up a spoken glimpse (language barrier aside) of what encompasses each blues inspired piece. Though there isn’t a 12-bar variety to be found, it’s the feeling of isolation and abandonment that has long held all disparate ideas of blues together that is truly universal. Be damned the method or lyric, if you’ve had real problems you can relate to Usui’s bared soul. Sings the Blues isn’t all pity, with a pair of songs titled “A Fake Blues” providing more playful melodies that speak to the haunted passageways of Americana’s twisted Southern twang. Truth is, no matter the source these are powerful tunes that speak to the essence of existence. That they are the product of Usui means much more because rarely does even the most forthright artist give so much of themselves and their creations openly.