Raindrops aren’t so much the theme on Lullatone’s third full-length album. Nay, they are instead the very center of the record, as the instruments on the bulk of the tracks represent raindrops themselves, if we knew them to be melodious rather than inconvenient.
Shawn James Seymour is the gentle force behind Lullatone, and has been since about 2001. He now calls Japan his home and finds that a minimalist approach to making music works best for him. This minimalist approach began on his well-received Computer Recital album that Portland, Oregon’s Audio Dregs label released in 2003. After his debut, Seymour moved to Nagoya and released My Petit Melodies in the same year on Childisc Recordings, an independent Japan-based label. Lullatone seems predisposed with things small in nature. Little Songs About Raindrops is mostly comprised of sounds—chimes and bells and warm tones—that one would call “petite”. I wonder if the stuff at his house is petite. I wonder if he eats off little petite plates, with little forks and knives and looks out a little window, where tiny little petite wind chimes sway and are inevitably sampled for his albums. For the latest album’s introduction, Seymour messes about on a petite music box for the aptly titled “My Petit Prelude”, inscribed in lower case letters, of course, for the minimalist and rather petite CD packaging.
Little Songs About Raindrops brims with syrupy sweetness. Though it’s said to be based on toy instruments, Lullatone’s work is more organized than such a statement would lead one to believe. On the fifth track, Seymour stumbles around a hushed keyboard melody that seems to grow, ever-so-slightly in mass toward the middle of the track. As “Puddles on the Playground” accelerates, a separate though quite complementary glockenspiel makes a stereo entrance, its limited variations dancing around the base melody. One of Seymour’s guests, Nicholas Cox, fills in for viola duty and helps bring one of the album’s stronger and quite petite symphonies to an end.
Lullatone’s Little Songs makes for good leisurely Sunday breakfast fare. Seymour’s compositions are rooted in the same type of chime-bell sound throughout the record, never being derailed by any kind of beats or bass tones. Vocals are almost entirely absent, other than those offered by Yoshimi Tomida, (his dependable accompaniment for a live setting) and even those appear in short, filtered bursts. The key to finding something other than the oft-used meandering toy keyboard intro is to patiently await what finds its way into the tracks. He’s creating minimalist works down to the last detail, yes, but he allows for things to grow more lush than the spacey, sparse direction in which the pieces begin. Any challenge that comes along with this record can be attributed to the fact that each piece is rooted in the same atmospheric region, shelving tempo for a more ambient approach. The composer more or less chooses from one family of percussion for his instrumentation, which limits the feel of the record as well. What sounds like sun-faded ornaments swinging from the neighbor’s porch usually morphs into something quite pleasant, though: washes of delicately tapped out bedtime chimes, sometimes cohabited by ukulele, guitar and viola. There’s clicking and fuzzy wave synths in the far background and some elegant delay on Lullatone’s keys that push the majority of his pieces away from tempo, too.
Shawn Seymour adheres to his own set of ambient rules for Little Songs About Raindrops. In keeping with this, he’s crafting puzzling melodies on a very limited scale, capturing hushed odes to morning (and to raindrops) simply out of what’s strewn across the playpen.