Yumbo - The Fruit of Errata 2xLP (Morr Music, 2021)
"Following in the footsteps of the pathbreaking Minna Miteru compilation of Japanese indie music, Morr Music and Alien Transistor have again joined forces to release The Fruit Of Errata, a compilation introducing the world to the intimate DIY pop of yumbo. Led by songwriter, pianist, and occasional vocalist Koji Shibuya, the Japanese band has released four albums since forming in 1998. This compilation draws fifteen songs (eighteen on vinyl) from those albums, and some ancillary releases, to uncover a biographical narrative of yumbo, showing how Shibuya’s songwriting, and the group’s limber, sensitive playing, has developed over the decades. It also places them squarely within a tradition of home-spun but ambitious Japanese pop that takes in Maher Shalal Hash Baz, Tenniscoats, Nagisa Ni Te, Yuzo Iwata, Kazumi Nikaido and more.
yumbo is very much the vision of Shibuya, an amiable iconoclast whose songs seem informed by some of his early listening – there’s the playful seriousness of Maher Shalal Hash Baz’s Tori Kudo here, an avowed long-time hero for Shibuya, but also the flexibility of freely improvised music. You can also hear Shibuya’s fondness for Mayo Thompson and The Red Crayola in both the idiosyncracies of the writing and the egalitarian looseness of the playing. Shibuya also carries those energies into the group’s membership – there are fantastic stories of him having a conversation at a record shop, or overhearing someone speaking, and asking the person in question to join yumbo as one of their various singers. He seems open to chance as a driving force, as a way to make space for unexpected possibilities to blossom.
The great achievement of yumbo and Shibuya, though, is translating all of this into beautiful, unpredictable pop songs. There’s a gorgeous soul-inflected lilt to “A House” that makes it delightfully affecting; the swaying brass on “Storm” propels its melody to a moody, dreamlike conclusion; the nakedness of “The Sweetest Mass” is slightly reminiscent of Carla Bley’s more pop-focused writing, crossed with the classicism of the songs that spilled from the Brill Building in the ‘60s. Throughout, Shibuya renders pop a deeply personal experience; you can hear musings here on friendship, family, intimacy, the complexity of relationships, mortality, and imbalances of power. These musings are also shadowed by real-life events: the effects and impact of the Great East Japan Earthquake of 2011 are captured in songs like “Umbrella People” from Onibi.
Throughout the performances on The Fruit Of Errata, Shibuya and the group play with tenderness; they also often draw on other players to flesh out the music even further, two such guests being the aforementioned Tori Kudo (on “Umbrella People”) and Olympia, Washington’s LAKE (on “The Devil Song”). Community-minded and generous in approach, the writing of Shibuya and the music of yumbo is never less than lovely, and The Fruit Of Errata is a welcome introduction to their world. Open and gentle, confident and generous, these pop songs are filled with charm and spirit." - MM