Illuha is a project of Tomoyoshi Date and Corey Fuller, both residing in Tokyo. They met through a common friend, Chihei Hatakeyama, and began collaborating in 2008.
Their debut album, "Shizuku", has been recorded in a church, at Bellingham, WA. While I know their solo releases, "Otoha" for Tomoyoshi and "Seas Between" for Corey Fuller, I'm positively surprised by their artistic organic collaboration. "Shizuku" shows a deep mutual understanding through the exploration of subtle moods.
I find it tempting to compare "Shizuki" with the two albums Harold Budd and Brian Eno conceived together, but for Illuha, if it's an influence, it's more as a template in which they found their own selves, more as a method than as a real reference, it is about how they mixed ambient techniques, the atmosphere of the place, the natural reverb and meditative space, field recordings (even a spoken word), with real instruments, guitars, pipe organ, vibraphone, dulcimer, accordion, rhodes, piano, or analog synthesizer.
Sometimes I have the feeling they are closer to the most contemplative side of ECM than to the usual 12k catalog, but it is also the kind of evolution and change of direction that Taylor Deupree is happy to promote for his label.
The opening track, "Rokuu", is particularly sensitive, melancholic and entrancing, mostly with the interplay between cello and guitar which give the emotional backbone among field recordings and digital sources. With the next one, "Aikou", it turns into something more introspective and even oriental with the cello of John Friesen.
"Seiya" is somewhat disconnected and floating with no apparent direction until the apparition of a spoken word by Japanese poet Tadahito Ichinoseki. At first it sounds relatively exotic but after getting used to it, it turns into an appeasing composition.
While there is an obvious richness with "Saika", after a promising first part, the lack of limpidity leaves me with a feeling of confusion, as if fog layers were hiding an expected sunrise. The two last tracks share this impression of disconnection and disaggregation, with each second flowing into the next one without an obvious riverbed or direction. Beautiful but (too) vaporous, an interesting debut album.