2017 album. Bella Union.
Born Sandra Sumie Nagano in Gothenburg, Sweden, she first began recording her songs in 2008, a few years after becoming a mother. Unlike her sister Yukimi, who fronts the electro-pop outfit Little Dragon, Sumie has pursued a solitary and acoustic path. “It was not a style or a sudden choice but more me playing my guitar and having two small children so I could not make much noise,” she explains. “But I also love minimal and delicate music, so that felt like a natural direction for me.”
For a singer songwriter, the benefit of starting from a point of quiet is the room it allows for manoeuvre afterwards. Such is the case with the subtly cinematic second album from Sandra Sumie Nagano, ‘Lost In Light’, through Bella Union.
On 2013’s eponymous debut, Sumie tapped into the mid-point between Scandinavian and Japanese folk music to deliver an album of blissful restraint, its quietude shaped by a combination of parenthood and natural inclination.
The follow-up is an album of stealthy dynamism, drama and mystery, its impact made all the greater because it skirts obvious routes to dance just out of hand’s reach, always seeming to be on the verge of departure.
Those who helped Sumie climb that poised peak included producer Filip Leyman, in whose Gothenburg studio the album was recorded. Fellow contributors numbered Karl Vento and Albert af Ekenstam on electric guitars, Emma Strååt and Kajsa Persson on strings and Max Lindahl on trumpet.
Sumie has also surfaced on others’ work. She sings on ‘Cover Hearts’, a track from sometime soundtrack composer David Wenngren’s Library Tapes project and on Gothenburg electro-collective Tegami’s pulsing ‘Screen Dream’. Meanwhile, back at base camp, ‘Lost In Light’ is a screen-style dream of an album itself: immersive while it lasts, haunting after it flickers out of view.
Sometimes less is so much more, and in the case of Sumie the combination of her voice and an acoustic guitar casts the most hypnotic and disarmingly simple spell.