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Grimm Grimm
Ginormous Amanda Farah , March 9th, 2020 09:48

Grimm Grimm finds warmth on new album Ginormous, with charming effect, finds Amanda Farah

Grimm Grimm has always managed to maintain the slightly sinister suggestion of his fairytale name. The solo project of Koichi Yamanoha has always toed a line of daydreaming and phantasm, a shallow delight that flakes away to reveal a heavier interior.

On his third album, Ginormous, Yamanoha leans harder on the vibrancy of synthesizers, playing up the whimsical elements of his songs and offsetting the melancholy of his lyrics. His mishmash of synth pop and jangling acoustic guitar is accented with percussion that comes in small clicks and creaks, metronomic rhythms, clacking, cranking sounds like wind-up gears, which sometimes stand in for more conventional drumming, or, as on ‘Kyowa Amenohidesu’, can create a halting, glitchy tempo.

As on his previous album, 2018’s Cliffhanger, Yamanoha has brought in female guest vocalists to take the lead on a few of his songs, including a stunning turn from Laetitia Sadier on ‘The Ghost of Madame Legros.’ Sadier’s voice adds a heft that Yamanoha’s own doesn’t have and taps into a romantic pensiveness (it also shows tremendous potential for Yamanoha as a songwriter for hire, if anyone is taking note).

What is curious is, that with Sadier’s track and Paz Maddio providing vocals for the first two tracks, Yamanoha’s vocals are largely absent from the A-side of Ginormous — including on the title track. Factor in the instrumental tracks and it does feel like Yamanoha has taken a step back — even if Grimm Grimm is a solo project.

This low profile also has a mitigating effect. It enables Yamanoha to be more ambitious in his compositions without ever coming across as dramatic. The carousel synths melt into a church organ memory, still bold, but less fanciful. When he is fully present he is unassuming, even winsome.

What charms about Grimm Grimm is that no quirky element is ever meant to be more than accent. He has learned how to anchor his songs in a solid melody – whether it’s being carried by a colourful synth line or more modest guitar strumming – and how to weave in wistfulness in clipped, brief visual lyrics. Like a happy memory of someone who’s been lost, the warmth and sadness sustain each other, one never wholly cancelling the other out.