Today’s Song: Satomimagae Combines Dark Folk & Ambient Atmospheres in “Houkou”

Satomimagae © Mana Hirak
Satomimagae © Mana Hirak
There are three ways to enter the gloomy world of Satomimagae’s new single “Houkou”; each as haunting as the next. Its stark music, evocative lyrics and captivating video provide different doors to begin grasping a song that can feel out of reach at first.
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Stream: “Houkou” – Satomimagae




There are three ways to enter the gloomy world of Satomimagae’s new single “Houkou”; each as haunting as the next. Its stark music, evocative lyrics and captivating video provide different doors to begin grasping a song that can feel out of reach at first.

Hanazono - Satomimagae
Hanazono – Satomimagae

It all starts with a rough bass line played on an acoustic guitar. Followed by a bare melody that  just manages to stay above water. There’s an intimate and vulnerable feeling straight away, as if you were listening in on a stranger recording a demo in their room. Tiny sounds as evidence of real moments: a slight hesitation as the voice drops, the strings buzzing against the fret, a note a fraction out of time. After a couple verses things quiet down as a soft guitar riff echoes José González and field recordings of wind and birds appear in the background.

A more familiar nostalgic beauty takes shape for a while, but it never seizes control. It comes in and out while Satomi hums and the wind intensifies. It’s hard to pin down, but there’s also a hint of raw 90’s alt rock in there. When the verses come back and the song climaxes, the closing lines are delivered in a melody that could easily be an epic Cranberries hit with another production style and instrumentation. So of course, when the music ends and all that’s left is a hiss, you are left wondering, “What just happened?

Satomimagae © Mana Hirak
Satomimagae © Mana Hirak

So you go through the second door, press play again and this time concentrate on the lyrics. The first words are enough to convey the natural imagery and poetic sense of the Japanese singer-songwriter.

What they hold in their arms tightly
Has no shape or color,
like water

But the lyrics aren’t intended to be a bright light on top of dark atmospheres. They too are hazy. Just as the almost unintelligible melodies in which they’re sung, they provide emotion without clarity. Metaphors of flimsy ladders and empty holes suggest a tale of paths with no reward in the end. Where we won’t ever see or hear what we are looking for. In this way, the lyrics reflect the exact same angst and the same kind of beauty as the music. This is not a case where you can enjoy one, but not care about the other. The two are the same.

Then, there’s the video. An outstanding animation by visual artist Nonowe Akihito, which combines paintings, stop motion and 3D graphics. I won’t go into describing the unique aesthetics and powerful images you can see for yourself. But I do want to emphasize how it does an amazing job at carrying the tone of the song into the visual world. So often we find videos that –no matter how cool they look– are just done for the sake of putting something to go along with the track on Youtube. When a video like this one goes so deep into transmitting the same emotions as the music, it serves more like an extension than a companion, and so it becomes a real door to experience the song itself.

Satomimagae © Mana Hirak
Satomimagae © Mana Hirak



As I said, “Houkou” can feel hard to grasp at first. It takes at least three listens to understand just what an extraordinary black hole of a song it is. The kind that seems distant and strange while it’s slowly pulling you. And once you are close enough it sucks you in hard and violently to reveal something completely new. Focusing on the music, then the lyrics and finally the video, makes us realize that they were corridors leading to the same place: a pitch black enormity of honest expression.

“Houkou” is the second single from Satomimagae’s upcoming album Hanazono, her first with legendary experimental label RVNG Intl. Out on April 23rd.

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Stream: “Houkou” – Satomimagae



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Hanazono - Satomimagae

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📸 © Mana Hirak


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