Loaf stands for Lo Alternative Frequencies and is a new label operating under Lo Recordings that pairs up interesting music with very, very unique packaging. In the case of I Dreamt Constellations Sang, the packaging is a screenprinted LP-sized sleeve that has both the CD and a large fold-out poster vacuumed to it with a clear plastic bag. If you're a person who likes for all your CDs to fit in alongside one another on a single shelf perfectly, it's the kind of thing that will drive you nuts, but the limited release certainly sticks out from the crowd.
For all of the elaborate packaging (designed by the always-outstanding Non-Format gang), the music itself is also something to behold. Following up on his debut on Lo, Nakashima has made some clear steps in developing his sound, pushing forward with his use of acoustic instruments, field recordings, sampled voices, and electronics and filtering to create something warm and beautiful that falls somewhere between the less beat-heavy work of Four Tet, the cut-up electronics of Nobukazu Takemura, and the quieter post rock delving of Fridge.
"Awaking" opens the release with a nice lead-in track as a quiet acoustic guitar loop is chopped up and re-arranged while snippets of female vocals and chimes dance around as graceful swoops of violin provide a soft weaving that holds everything together. With thirteen songs running almost seventy-five minutes in length, there are a couple places on the release where a little bit of editing could have made for an even better album, but most of the time Nakashima makes slower moments pay off in a big way later. The eight-plus minute "Childhood" is all cut-up voices, chimes, and percolating beats during a soft beginning section, but the track slowly builds up to a huge crescendo, letting loose with a squall of feedback and distorted beats that's easily the loudest moment on the disc.
He's not afraid to test other waters either, and dips into more dubby underpinnings on the excellent "Night Bugs Sing Silently." The track rolls along in a low-slung way with hollowed-out beats and melodica before chugging into a more juicy section that really pays off. As mentioned before, he dips into more post rock realms in places, and tracks like the gorgeous "Looking For My Constellation" mix live and programmed beats with strings, pretty guitar work, and subtle layers of electronics that seem to tie everything together nicely. As mentioned above, it would probably be better with a touch more editing, but it's hard to argue with pieces like the ten-minute "Starbright Reflected In The River Of Canada," which builds from folky guitar strums into hyper-textural, almost drunken cosmic electronic jazz. I Dreamt Constellations Sang is a stunning second release from Nakashima, and a solid second release on the newly-formed Loaf Records.