UA has been one of the most fascinating figures in Japanese pop music for nearly 20 years. Since making her debut in 1995, she’s released eight studio albums and four live albums, acted in movies, hosted a TV show designed to teach traditional Japanese songs to children, and more. Her music combines jazz, electronic sounds, and pop in a way that recalls both Björk and Natalia Lafourcade, but her low, powerful voice sets her apart from either of them, in a territory all her own. 2004’s Sun, on which she entered spiritual jazz territory, might be her masterpiece; it’s like hearing a more controlled Yoko Ono front one of Don Cherry‘s all-musics-are-one ensembles. The follow-up, 2005’s Breathe, is almost as good, and slightly more pop-friendly. She hasn’t made a record since 2010’s Kaba, a collection of covers that included songs by the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Björk, Fiona Apple and Radiohead.
This recent video, on which she’s accompanied only by Kazuhisa Uchihashi on daxophone (an instrument designed by experimental guitarist Hans Reichel), offers hope that maybe she’s got new music in the pipeline.