Shizka Ueda – A Small Sun
Shizka Ueda – A Small Sun
Shizka Ueda – A Small Sun

Shizka Ueda – A Small Sun

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Label:    Accretions Records – ALP081
Format:     CD, Album, Limited Edition, Stereo
Country:    Japan
Released:    29 Nov 2023
Genre:    Rock, Folk, World, & Country
Style:    Experimental, Avantgarde

Another exciting debut and new gem plucked from the boundless Japanese contemporary underground.  We’re addicted.

Not for the first time, we’re left stunned by a newcomer (to us at least) fresh a scene we knew didn’t know existed.  Shizka Ueda is a clinical psychologist by day, authoring three books with essays on psychology and music, yet her debut here is a fun and somewhat mischievous expression of nostalgia and everyday life.  It’s an amalgamation of original songs and improvised pieces recorded between New York and Michigan with the help of local musicians.  At its core is a genuinely established folk-led avant-pop sense of song writing.  Straightlaced guitar chords and dreamy falsetto vocals feel effortless and instantly implanted in your head.  The opener ‘Hidamari’ and ‘Yudachi’ are exactly what we need right now, wonderfully unadorned, simple.. maybe perfect.  Elsewhere, Ueda eases her humour into it - ‘Cucumbers’ builds a hypnotic song out of repeating elliptical percussion and layers vocals announcing various fruits.. and it’s amazing.  Somewhat recalling the playful side of Mope Grooves and their mechanised rhythm section. 

More bravely, Shizka slips in a number of abstruse improvisations which are a world away from the amusing microcosm she’s creating with her more traditional songs.  But this further plays into the idea that this music is a private expression, created without the fear of attempting to please the audience.  Whilst ’Song For Guitar And Voice’ creates something magical out of nowhere, layering beautifully harmonised falsetto over dry guitar chords, taking us far away from where we were once before. 

We’re aware we don’t properly understand the context or scene in which this has spawned from, but comparisons to the recentish debut from Izumi Hirakawa feels perfect.  As does the scorched folk of Daisuke Tobari - but in honesty, this is just in a world entirely of its own. (Mint / New)


This debut album by Shizka Ueda titled “a small sun” consists of original songs and improvised pieces she recorded in New York City and Ann Arbor, Michigan with local musicians and the engineer and co-producer, Sean Schuster-Craig (Jib Kidder), who also mixed the album. Lyrics represent the worldview of shizka, who conducts clinical psychology activities on a daily basis. Her falsetto voice and guitar combined with Schuster-Craig’s sampling and overdubs create a folky avant-pop mind trip. In “Hidamari” the story in which a dream and reality overlap culminates from the combination of natural sounds and sampled percussion, while “Yudachi” expresses the nostalgia of childhood emerging from overlapping sounds of everyday life. The improvisational sessions are composed of various acoustic instruments along with toys and other devices with guest appearances by Jason Adam Voss, philip gayle, and Sean Schuster-Craig.

Born in Kanagawa, Japan, Shizka grew up surrounded by her older brother’s record collection, absorbing many diverse genres of music. Her solo performances are her playing guitar and singing layered with samples and loops that have evolved into a unique style all her own. In 2012 she co-founded the low-fi electronic unit The Cucumbers. In 2018 she expanded her live and recording venues to Tokyo, New York, and Michigan. In 2021 she formed the experimental pop group Nolens Volens, playing her original pieces along with cover songs by artists from around the world as well as improvisational works in progress. Based in Tochigi, Japan, Shizka is a clinical psychologist and has co-authored three books with essays on psychology and music. 

1        Hidamari 6:38
2        Cucumber's Theme 4:46
3        Improvisation 5 (May 1, 2018) 7:59
4        Yudachi 6:21
5        Improvisation 4 (Radio Show Excerpt) 10:12
6        Visage 1:27
7        Song For Guitar And Voice 3:55
8        Improvisation 1 (May 8, 2017) 5:01
9        Black Flower 5:16
10        Improvisation 2 (May 8, 2017) 14:17
11        Hidamari Awano Mix 8:20