Arovane :: Lilies (City Centre Offices, CD)

The story is (as noted on City Centre’s website) that Uwe Zahn, the man behind Arovane, returned from a trip to Japan, recorded Lilies, and then dismantled his studio. If true, then Lilies will simultaneously thrill and break your heart. An evocative and gilded memory of a romantic cityscape (in this case the neon and glass skyline of Japan), Lilies is a continuation of the emotionally mature electronic music that Zahn does so masterfully as Arovane. While Tides, one of his earlier releases and City Centre’s first full-length release, was written as an ode to the seashores in the south of France, Lilies takes you to early spring in Tokyo when the cherry blossoms are blooming.

Lilies is short—too short by far—and each track is a brief reminiscence of Zahn’s recent trip. “Ten Hours”—the time it takes to fly from Berlin to Tokyo—hums with the vocal activity of the airport as a harpsichord plucks out a winsome ode, a resonating melody that speaks of the oxymoronic anticipation exhaustion that pervades the traveling experience. “Passage to Nagoya” shuffles and rattles around a woman’s voice as she announces the approaching destination. A single drone is suspended in space while the drum kit slouches around underfoot and velvet pads stroke the foreground. It’s a moment of interrupted time—that last two minutes before you arrive at your destination when you’ve gotten your affairs settled and you are doing nothing but watching the scenery and letting the motion of the train lull you. You can become rejuvenated in just two minutes. Zahn knows.

There are snatches of voices scattered throughout Lilies, bursts of Japanese that chatter through the ambience and the gorgeous melodies. Field recordings of the city streets swirl around the drum pads, and there is a miniscule layer of distortion and the echo of static that laces some of the instrumentation like dust motes caught in the late afternoon light. “Cry Osaka Cry” captures the early twilight across the city, the shivering metallic percussion like a spindrift of luminescence cascading down on the slow shadows on the streets.

“Tokyo Ghost Stories” is haunted by a spectral echo that has been layered by reflection off of so many hard city surfaces that it sounds like the voice of the city and not just the gentle cooing of a single lost girl. The shuffling beat patterns of “Cry Osaka Cry” and “Passage to Nagoya” pursue this voice, trying to discern its source. Like so much of Lilies, “Tokyo Ghost Stories” is a love song to the metropolis, a burnished memory kept alive by lambent melody and delicate percussion.

And are we to take the title of “Goodbye Forever” seriously? The last track of Lilies is a piece for solo piano against a backdrop of shimmering tones and drones with echoes from a distant chamber orchestra, and it plays like the last exchange between old friends about to part for a long time. Is this it, then? I hope not. Arovane records are dazzling ambient concoctions that imprint themselves like the lost lullabies of innocence in our tired and cynical brains. As a travelogue, Lilies is a musical postcard written by a traveler who, upon returning home, realizes he misses the magical place he just came from. Let’s hope that it isn’t the last we hear from Uwe Zahn and Arovane. Highly recommended.

Lilies is out now on City Centre Offices.

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