Agent: Chris Colbourn
Sometimes less is so much more, and in the case of Sumie’s self-titled debut album, the combination of her voice and an acoustic guitar is the most hypnotic and disarmingly simple spell.
Born Sandra Sumie Nagano in Gothenburg, Sweden, she first began recording her songs in 2008, a few years after becoming a mother. “I’ve always kept a journal close around me and my writing would often roll into melodies”, she recalls. “I dreamt about being a singer when I was really young but I only began to take myself more seriously in my songwriting when I picked up the guitar and started to record songs in my house.”
Unlike her younger sister Yukimi, who fronts 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.”
After years of travelling, Sumie had re-settled in Gothenburg and released a handful of tracks via digital store Bandcamp plus an animated video made by her father Yasuke Nagano for the now re-recorded album highlight ‘Never Wanted To Be’, where images of snow, water and trees intercut with a glowing pyramid mirror the intoxicating, intriguing undercurrents of Sumie’s music. She waited to record an album, “until it sounded like I heard it in my head. Once I met Nils Frahm and Dustin O’Halloran and [Bella Union’s] Simon Raymonde, I knew it was the right time. They understand what I’m doing.”
The album was recorded at German pianist Frahm’s studio; producer (and fellow pianist) O’Halloran has given Sumie’s songs a beautifully dappled light and shade, with the occasional subtle enhancement from his own piano on ‘Sailor Friends’, Idem Reinhart’s violin on ‘Midnight Glories’ and Gyda Valtysdottir’s cello on ‘Speed Into’. Befitting Sumie’s bloodline (Swedish mother, Japanese father), the album fits both current Scandinavian and Japanese folk strains. “I have always thought that the cultural differences are very interesting,” she says. “My way of doing things definitely carries the duality of both cultures.”
Gearing up for the spotlight that her album will bring, Sumie has recently supported CocoRosie and done the rounds of this summer’s Swedish festivals and Iceland Airwaves. Performances filmed in a forest close to Gothenburg will showcase her intimate, mesmerising presence. “It’s beautiful to find the right spaces and to capture the right moment for this music live,” she concludes. In a forest, or from a stage, or even at home, Sumie’s irresistibly hypnotic spell will get inside and take you over.