Bron's latest album, the first new Yamaha material since the reissue, is just as unimposing. So much so that I'd listened to it half a dozen times before I noticed its political message. There's the album title, of course, plus loaded track titles like "Borderless II," "Shuppatsu" ("departure" in Japanese) and "Night Crossing." The news in 2015 has been dominated by the worst global refugee crisis since World War II, and Imaginary Lines seems to be Bron's own humble commentary on the situation.
His angle? It's tempting to line up a further two titles, "Citizens" and "Only Of The Universe." Bron's music as Yamaha has never paid much attention to boundaries, occupying a tuneful interzone between Detroit electro and whimsical Japanese video game soundtracks. With Imaginary Lines, he focuses on the project's friendlier side, avoiding uptempo numbers in favour of limpid, heartstring-tugging melodies and gently bumping drums. Tracks like "Sazak Bay" and "Only Of The Universe" coast by gorgeously. The exquisite "Sooty Shearwater, King Of Migration" might even be as good as "What's A Girl To Do."
There are weak spots: mainly the two vocal tracks, whose heavily autotuned performances sit at odds with the well-judged arrangements. "Citizens," featuring Sofie Winterson, is particularly cheesy. But Bron's charms work slowly, and by the fourth or fifth listen you're so beguiled by the album as a whole that these blips hardly stand out.
The album ends on a less comforting note. Closer "Imaginary Lines" is pretty but leaden, placing Yamaha's sad side front and centre. Sparkly e-pianos are joined by a single sung note, more a sigh than a melody. Maybe Bron is conceding that, while the lines between places might be imaginary, their consequences are very real. As ever, he expresses the idea with rare grace.