One year ago, Meiday’s first post-Cubao X staging was held to launch Heartsongs for Humans, an EP which was, it turns out, the culmination of the work of an ensemble called Arigato, Hato! The band, helmed by Cat Cortes, was known for their blend of electronica and rock elements and for catchy songs, all sung in Cortes’s distinctly mezzo-soprano soulful voice.
I first got to hear them in 2010, and their cover of Portishead’s “Glory Box” was what I could recall. But it was after a Big Sky Mind event where I got to meet them, and they eventually invited me to the EP launch.
The EP consists of four songs, including “The Scoundrel,” which is one of their more well-known tunes. Especially in the last part of 2011, the EP went into heavy rotation on my music player. It is my favorite late-night album, mainly because of the song “City Sleeping,” but I realize its value lies in a moderation I can appreciate–it’s not too heavy, and sometimes I am not willing to go for the easy listening stuff.
I published a best-of list elsewhere that didn’t include the EP–my criterion, which I realize is too limiting, had to do in part with the number of songs to make it qualify. By this reckoning, I would have excluded Outerhope’s No End in Sight EP if it was released in 2011, though it is so far one of the better new recordings I’ve heard in the first half of this year. In hindsight, Heartsongs deserves to be included.
Whether this would mean bumping off another album would be something I am unwilling to speak about now–but maybe I can expand the list rather than exclude. There are, however, a couple of things Arigato, Hato! have left me. First is an appreciation for ways one can blend electronic music with live instruments in our context. In other ways, Gentle Universe (with toy instruments) and Tarsius (with drums) have done their part as well. (Come to think of it, I did not include Tarsius, but mainly because I have come to the conclusion that they are amazing live. The new vinyl record, which I heard last night, is most interesting, and that could make me put them on my list too.)
Their other legacy was alluded to earlier–it was a sense of moderation I now realize, on hindsight, was more interesting. Even their extant live performance recordings show this–it was in the careful blend of instruments and voice that they shone. It is perhaps the same reason I appreciated Mikey Amistoso’s Hannah+Gabi project and recognized how its sound made its way to the “road to Sunday night.”
There is no accounting for taste. Sometimes I realize that music I became enamored with at one point becomes less palatable with time. So the true test for me, with this carefully-crafted EP, is the distance time brings about. There are no “instant classics.” Maybe that is why I am not an early adopter.
For now, though, I thank Arigato, Hato! for their little gift. It seems unsurprising that their name includes the Japanese for “Thank you.” It may have been an in-joke (a pun, I believe), but for me the name is a cue to express thanks for the way they made music. I hope that the gift can survive the test of time.