The label Ungaikyō Prod. is a French outlet to promote Ambient and Dungeon Synth-oriented Music, inspired by the Japanese culture and (archaic / ancient) sonic scene. It was formed quite recently by Julien Lacroix, who has some solo-projects within that very comparable scene. You will surely know this sympathetic guy as well from Moloch Conspiracy (recently, and sadly, defunct). I won’t go too deep into the background of the label nor the human being behind it this time.
I will go to the essence of this review immediately, which is the re-issue of Nure-Onna aka 濡女, which means something like, if I’m not mistaken, ‘wet woman’. But no, I do not think you have to search for something erotic or pornographic behind it, despite this translation, yet then again, one never knows, of course… It does refer to a snake-shaped and woman-headed creature with vampiric characteristics (damn, it does sound sexy) within archaic Japanese folklore. This recording was originally independently and digitally released in November 2019 by this Russian project with the very same moniker (or better: this release is named after the outfit), and it has now been re-issued by Ungaikyō Prod. There was a very limited physical re-edition, yet that one (a tape edition) is sold out in the meantime. But the digital one is still available!
Buried in its solitude, Nure-Onna doesn’t leave travelers unscathed. On the reflections of this pond, in the middle of the forest, we see a hair that weaves the silhouette of a woman. But this body ripples faster than the eddies of water. A tongue appears and makes disappear the silhouette of a man who suddenly seems to be emptying of his substance… In the tradition of Japanese Folklore, this metaphysical story delves deep once again into mystery, mythology and legend of ancient Japan. And it is evident that the visual art accompanies this theme perfectly. This one is based on a painting by some Toriyama Sekien (involved with, and educated by, the Kanō tradition), finalized about two and a half centuries ago. It is not the original cover artwork on this re-release, in case of interest, but it does fit for sure (so did the cover painting on the initial edition).
This effort consists of seven pieces, clocking about seventeen minutes. And let’s be sure about this: this is not what you will be listening to in an Oriental restaurant at all. Nothing wrong with that, but what Nure-Onna bring is an extremely powerful and emotive, intense and captivating collection of deep-minded, intrinsically sensitive and – of course – Far-East-inspired Dark Doom Ambience ‘songs’.
The easiest way to describe this material is like labeling it as mainly piano-based Dark Ambient with a rather cinematic approach and a deep-melancholic soul, injected by gloomy synths – often of the haunting kind –, different (vocal) samples (it somehow reminds me of the sad stories once used in Nights Amore’s Subscribers Of Death), and some additional percussions and other subtle injections. …and of course the use of some traditional ancient Japanese instruments, I guess; don’t I hear the Koto especially and even traditional flutes?...
The general atmosphere reminds me of a misty woods, modestly moonlit, the rays of moonlight shimmering on the water of a lake, spirit-shaped nebula floating above the silent waves, the presence of entities surrounding you carefully yet, at the very same time, drenched in melancholy, oblivion, resignation. The beauty lies in the diverse, though subtly implemented, use of details, making each short ‘song’ like an independent story, like a biographical history measured into a concise sonic explanation. All of these seven titles are enormously ‘related’ in a mostly organic manner, and at the same time, despite the short length, they do recite another narrative. Some have that typifying archaic-Nipponese flair, then again rather universal – and transcendental – atmospheres sort of cover up the aural halo.
The reference to paranormality and mythology, cf. the moniker of both the project and the album, have been clearly translated and defined into sonic spectra. Notwithstanding the very limited duration of this release, Nure-Onna indeed is an adventurous experience, mind-twisting and uncommon, and at the same time masochistically trusted and relaxed – a lapsus that teases and pleases. It is unfortunate that this might be the sole release from this project, but then again I am grateful for Monsieur Lacroix have this supernatural-sounding thing been re-released.