Coltemonikha are a Japanese technopop/electronica duo, a collaboration between uber-producer Yasutaka Nakata and fashion model/designer Kate Sakai. Together they released just two albums (barely full length) before disbanding, Sakai presumably back to fashion, Nakata definitely back to producing other musicians. Nakata is much better known as the svengali behind two of Japan’s biggest electronica acts, Capsule and Perfume, the latter of which have recently become the most successful group in the country.
Now that I got the facts out of the way, I will just say that ‘Sleeping Girl’ is my favourite song of any genre, any country, any gender of the past five years. It’s electronica perfection, every beat and every note measured perfectly, insistently, thoughtfully. There’s repetition, but not for repetition’s sake, nor to fill the runtime or to feed the dancefloor frenzy. The repetition is there to lead up to the stunning endgame, the change in the bassline starting from 3:02 that turns the nicely melodic if slightly routine song into a tenderly tragic, magical track full of yearning and longing.
Next to the strong drum-and-bass and disciplined rhythm, the overlying melody sounds fragile and wavering, but it beautifully holds its own and provides the song with a tenderness that is atypical of the genre. Sakai’s voice is deadpan and slightly processed, but she sings of evocative, grand things: deep seas, keyless windows, full moons and eternal kisses. And when the bass turns, the lack of emotion in her voice that’s been driving the song on suddenly sounds wistful, quietly aching, melancholy and rather mournful. And when the final chorus ends and the music runs on, the melody that struggled to hold on from the beginning is still there, still fragile and delicate, but now with sad finality and regret, knowing that the song, the story, and the melody, the eternal kiss, must end soon.
‘Sleeping Girl’ is the third in the Holy Trinity of Japanese Female Vocal Songs, alongside ‘Cast a spell on her’ and ‘時間を名乗る天使 (An Angel Named Time)’, introduced earlier. It’s also my favourite, and doesn’t sound at all diminished even after over 3 years of constant, ceaseless listening. Like the witch in the old Sleeping Beauty story, Nakata and Sakai have somehow conjured up real magic here, and while the Coltemonikha albums have other gems – ‘Namaiki‘ and ‘そらとぶひかり‘ are the best – the Japanese electronica and J-pop in general have never produced anything as beguiling as this.