(09 August 2009) Eri Sugai's fourth album is entitled Kokoro No Niwa (Green Mars (Japan) GMPA002, 2009). The album is a twelve track project building on the success of the artist's four prior releases, two as Eri Sugai Mai (2000) and Kaori (2004) and two others in collaboration with other artists under the monikor Stella Miris (Air (2000) and Stella II (2006)). The artist's Erital Christmas with Itaru Watnabe (2008) is also a commercial success.
Kokoro No Niwa is a a ten track offering in the ethereal new age stylingso characteristic to Eri Sugai's releases. Each track name has an [alternate] English name and Eri has provided English liner notes herself to assist the Enlgish listener best use the new project. This project, like the last twelve-track Erital Christmas (Green Mars (Japan) GMPA0001, 2008) is self-released as she takes more of the production process into her own two hands. The eleven track Stella Mirus II (Chapter One/Pacific Moon (Japan) CHCB-30015, 2006) is still distributed by Pacific Moon, who appear to be doing a good job publishing and distributing Eri's musical developments.
Eri Sugai's CDs are a pleasure to acquire because they arrive flawlessly packaged complete with the gobi card that surrounds the hinged side of theh jewel case. The artwork is flawless, with colors and images that perfectly evoke the feeling the artist wishes the listener to begin the processs with. And this time has again been no exception. The lovely yellow booklet sports a a Japanese chacater set with the album title on one side and a musical note in the abyss on the other side. The pages are a mix of Japanese and Elgnish words that give rise to the lyrics and their English translation.
Eri herself advertises the album as a "Healing Ambient Voice CD". Layers of Japanese vocals grace the CD often with light keyboard or acoustic washes to add the texture necessary to hold the individual numbers together both rhythmically and melodically. We are provied with precious little else to describe the music other than the titles and some lists of who else joins Eri on the album. All vocal work is from Eri Sugai herself. Mizauyo Komiya provides Koto. Ikuo Kakehashai provides Percussion. Recording credits go to Eri Sugai herself with the execption of locations and some of the others involved in mixing and mastering. The music is sweet, new age in style, and indeed perfect for use in the healing process. My reflexologist and I use in in her studio religioiusly and it works there fine. I suggest that the material may be equally well suited to gentle love making, relaxing in general and as a backdrop for any form of entertaining.
Eri Sugai has one of the most versatile soprano voices not only in Japan but also on the planet and can hold her own against Annie Haslam, Miriam Stockley, Joanne Hogg or Maddy Prior any day of the week on any continent. This is clearly demosntrated in the further tracks of Kokoro No Niwa. The second track "Into A Sleep" is extremely relaxing and must be used carefully outside the bedroom; because for example if used around a pool or hot tub, it could cause death with the relaxation the track will evoke.
"Heart of Earth" is styled with many vocal layers that give it a very close affinity to Adiemus. The melodies and the sonic power are superb. Eri's notes say that she will wake up the listeners with this track and she is true to her word through and through. Whereas Mai and Kaori had songs about journey by old ships, Eri wasnted to write a song about journey by land. Far Away Journey has provided trhe artist a pallet for one of the album's clearest standouts.
An acapella number entitled "Juvenile Mind" deails with a traumatic dream Eri has about not having sufficient time to spend with her father when then were both alive. In sharp contrast Eri uses her name to provide more upbeat inspiration along with arragnements to reflect on river, air and other life essentials.
In the four songs that conclude the record, Eri focuses on "Beginning," "Spirit of the Forest," and "Mirage" before joining them together in "Tapestry," the fabric that she has designed to take the listener forward into the positive fabric of going forward. Ineed this is Eri's music to heal the soul.
Eri Sugai can not stop making music. She is born to sing and to create lovely music that surrounds her soprano voice. Certain to appeal to listeners of new age Japanese music, Adiemus fans and those that like music for relaxing, Eri Sugai's new album Kokoro no Nawa is going to draw a lot of interest this year. We can't wait to see what she does next.