|2||Zenbu Honto (Every Thing Is Everything)||7:07|
|3||Fish With Arms||0:34|
|5||Time To Pray||3:59|
|8||The Snow Falls On Everyone||6:47|
|3||Swim Swan Song||4:49|
|5||Hi Ma Wa Ri||4:43|
With “Mirage Mirage“, avant-pop quintet Spirit Fest gifts their listeners with their richest, deepest record to date. It’s no surprise when you consider the group’s membership: Saya and Ueno, aka the duo Tenniscoats; Markus Acher, best known as singer of The Notwist; Mat Fowler, who plays with Jam Money and Bons; and Cico Beck, who’s making music with Joasinho, Aloa Input & The Notwist. If that feels like a heavyweight line-up, that’s because it is – yet the overarching mood of Spirit Fest is one of lightness and joy, of experiment and pure pop pleasure.
Sessions for the the album were split between the Tenniscoats’ Tokyo home studio in November 2018, and a small apartment studio in Munich in June 2019. Saya, Ueno and Markus pitched in songs, but sometimes, as with “Fish With Arms”, beguiling moments grew from group improvisations, often kicked off by Cico and Mat. All members stretched their instrumental limbs, too: “I was curious to explore how my home recording methods might work within the studio,” Mat reflects, and you can hear that curiosity in the aforementioned song, which folds in a recording of “a young boy showing his father a painting he'd made of a fish with arms shortly before disappearing between the sliding doors of a lift.”
That’s a lovely metaphor for what Spirit Fest do here. There’s a sincere, child-like generosity to the music, and a playfulness with an everyday surrealism you can hear in some of the experimental interjections across the album. Its final sound is the rolling click-clacking of a bicycle wheel. The bike was key to one of Mat’s explorations of the Tenniscoats’ Tokyo neighbourhood, on “an autumnal cycle ride to a local park. The bicycle had a basket, in which I carried two paintings I had found on the street.” Stumbling across art amongst the everyday; that’s also core to Spirit Fest, particularly after reflecting upon Markus’s description of their music-making practices: “Most of it develops by playing and trying, and decisions are made fast and intuitive.”
There’s more here than just avant-pop: see the pronounced folksy lilt to “The Snow Falls On Everyone”; or “Mohikone”, a gorgeous instrumental, droplets of piano pattering amongst a plangent acoustic guitar. The seven-minute “Zenbu Honto (Every Thing Is Everything)” is a spiralling psychedelic pop mantra, with field recordings and slithering electronics tracing a path under the scrub-growth of guitar, piano and drums. There are guest appearances from Micha Acher (The Notwist, Tied & Tickled Trio) on trumpet, and Aiko Okamoto, who takes part in the choral rounds of the album’s closing tune, “Saigo Song”.
Whichever way you approach it, though, the guiding force of Spirit Fest is friendship and collaboration, giving life to collective dreaming. Summing things up, Markus says, “This record is a lot about relationships, from different perspectives, about wondrous things that happen to everybody sometimes, about shared experiences (like the snow falling on everyone). I think of summer when I listen to it, because we recorded in summer, but more like a long sleepless summer night with lots of talking and music… A psychedelic feeling.” The creative dynamic that makes for those spirited nights of talking and sharing is all there in a story that Mat tells about first meeting Markus, “outside a Paul Klee exhibition we then went on to visit. One painting always sticks with me, ‘The Adventure Ship’. I still feel an affinity between this painting and our own travels on the good ship Spirit Fest. All aboard!”
Words by Jon Dale (Rose Hobart / Tristes Tropiques)