Haunting beauty, sudden violence
Butterfly Horse Street is the most beautiful record I’ve heard in a while. I’m not prepared to say it’s the best or my favorite, but for sheer overwhelming loveliness, it wins hands down.
The album is made of the simplest materials, radiant tones of electric guitar, sometimes heated to cracking with feedback, and wordless, untethered vocals. Hisato Higuchi, a Japanese artist who began his career as a puppeteer, works alone, subtly, leaving ample space for tones to reverberate and evolve. Still, there is nothing minimal about Butterfly Horse Street. The silences glow as brightly as the notes themselves. The whole thing seems washed in sunshine.
Higuchi oscillates between soft, delicately constructed musings and louder, more violent excursions into distortion. The jump between the first song—the otherworldly “A Hundred Signs of Light”—and the second—the furious, feedback-splintered “Grow”—may at first seem insurmountable. And yet, as you move through the album, you begin to realize that Higuchi is simply establishing parameters. All the songs from there on fall somewhere into the spectrum between translucent, ghostly beauty and roiling anarchy. A few, “Melody in the Mud”, “Dawn”, and the masterful closer “Cry Baby Flower” bring these two elements together, laying lambent, luminous pearls of sound next to the crackle and saw of feedback.
The slower, more lyrical compositions will remind you of Loren Mazzacane Connors’ work; the harsher ones sound like Jimi Hendrix slipping the leash. There is a touch of blues embedded in these songs’ bent notes and note progressions, but slowed down to codeine-dosed tempos. In one cut, “Melody in the Mud”, Higuchi seems to have incorporated the sound of snoring, along with angelic voices and meditative guitar. It is like the last beautiful dream before waking, real world sounds fitted uneasily into imagined narratives.
The most stunning cut comes at the end, however, with “Cry Baby Flower”. Here fractured, strident tones of guitar rampage in the foreground, while gentle, light-filled strummings occur just within hearing underneath. Beauty, calm, violence, and striving…all together in one place. And, ultimately, the violence turns into just another color of beauty.