According to Marina Sakimoto, the frontwoman of Shunkan, her band’s title is a Japanese word for “moment” or “in the moment.” It also borrows its name from an eleventh-century monk who was exiled to a remote island after he failed to lead an uprising—a fitting moniker for the Los Angeles-born-and-raised musician who has sent herself into exile in the land of New Zealand.
Before her new release, The Pink Noise, Sakimoto wrote and performed solo, creating fuzzy-yet-reflective indie-rock songs that often earned her a classification of “singer-songwriter.” On her full-length debut, Sakimoto has picked up four other band members (Joseph Boath, Andy Gibbs, Reese Jenson, and Sonny Heremia) and a much fuller sound. Though she has maintained some of the fuzzy twee that added to the charm of her first EP, Honey, Milk and Blood, now, years into her twenties, her voice is stronger, her songwriting is more assured, and her music is more fully realized.
Remnants of those more sugary singer-songwriter days are apparent in songs such as “Paleontologist” and “Here With Me.” In the former, the more down-tempo guitar sounds like an oddly successful mash-up of the Smashing Pumpkins and Sixpence None The Richer, and in the latter, the largely percussion-less music underscores a sweeter, barer version of Sakimoto’s voice. The repetitive guitar seems to hint at an impending sonic explosion, but when that finally does come (more than halfway through), it’s in the form of quiet drums, a melodious piano line, and a wordless round of “bas” and “das.” Four songs from the end of an eleven-track album, “Here With Me” provides a nice break from the fuzz.
Elsewhere, though, Shunkan does not lean so decisively to the amiable side. On tracks such as “Peter,” the band bridges the precarious divide between soul-bearing earnestness and wolfish intensity. Over driving, heavily distorted, sometimes screeching guitars, Sakimoto sings the refrain, “Oh Peter, your brown eyes are boring / Oh Peter, I’ll always be your ghost,” a perfect combination of a down-to-earth insult and metaphorical language that is more biting because of the contrast and the grit with which she delivers it. Here, Sakimoto is far from the doe she claims as her spirit animal on the band’s website.
The whole album seems intent on warning us of that fact. While it is called The Pink Noise, a title that would seem to indicate youthful sweetness within, its title track (the album closer) contradicts that notion. Swallowing a falsetto, bubbly chorus in the distortion of multiple guitars, the song informs us, “We are nothing like our slurs / That everything is beautiful.” Later, Sakimoto sings, “The pink noise is a lie.” Though still young, the band’s confidence and more sharply-honed edge are on full display with no frills and, as is clear from that, no bullshit. Living up to the name she chose before Sakimoto found her full sound, The Pink Noise reveals a band in its moment.