A sticksman at heart, Eiko Ishibashi has sown her rhythmic skills in a swathe of acts, collaborating with many artists in her native Japan and in the US. She's also an established singer-songwriter with noted flute and vibraphone skills, and has released many LPs, including a solo piano record, four pop albums and an OST for a friend's film. According to the press release for her upcoming release Imitation Of Life, she plays at least one hundred gigs a year around the globe, both solo and in groups. Perhaps most notably, she's been performing as part of Eiko Ishibashi To Mou Shinda Hitotachi (the rest of the band provide additional instrumentation for Imitation Of Life), which features legendary avant-noise merchant Jim O'Rourke (Sonic Youth, Joanna Newsom), who also produces the record.

Imitation Of Life was actually released in 2012 over in Japan, but only given a home in the US (on Drag City) this year. It went down remarkably well there, with critics applauding the experimental nature and impressive sci-fi narrative that underpins the entire thing - though without an intimate knowledge of the Japanese language, that might pass you by. You can glean vaguely fantastical titbits from the track titles, like 'Silent Running' and 'Long Scan Of The Test Tube Sea', but lacking any translation, it's impossible to decipher exactly what about the album is 'sci-fi'. Musically, it's a neo-folk collection, with pop, jazz and experimental passages, but not the usual robotic regalia that adorns something inherently space-y, cosmic or astral. That's a generalisation of the genre, for sure, but sans story, you'd never know Eiko's record was such as it doesn't feature the conventions of the style.

It stands at a mere seven tracks, which at first glance appears oddly short for an album, but when you see most tracks clocking in around 6/7 minutes, it's obvious why she's not plumped for more efforts. The longest cut, the aforementioned 'Silent Running', surpasses a lofty 8 minutes. Opening with fey folkisms, capricious time shifts and breezy summertime melodies, it swiftly warps into a disjointed affair, ripe with dynamic tilts, art-classical keys and classic rock guitar solo-ing that feels endless and as psychedelic as Pink Floyd or other '60s boundary-pushers.

Shorter, more readily digestible ditties, like 'Resurrection', veer away from going overboard on experimental tangents, instead hurtling down poppier avenues. 'Resurrection' is stuffed with string harmonies mirroring sweet vox from Eiko and syrupy hallmarks like chimes, steel pans and Disney violins - it's a dulcet pop adventure. 'Imitation Of Life', also a shorter portion of the album, is made memorable by the insane funk bass weaving its way through string, percussion, saxophone and guitar kerfuffle. It's like the weirdest '90s sitcom filler muzak you'll ever hear.

Eiko Ishibashi's first foray into foreign audiences may be somewhat lost due to language barriers - though that's not something that should be remedied in any way; only on the rarest of occasions does an album need a re-recorded translation. It's like dubs over subs - just wrong. However, despite the loss of story, it's still a perfectly pleasant album, which gorgeous segments of experimental grandeur and serene patches of folk-pop bliss.