Chihei Hatakeyama :: Minima Moralia (Kranky, CD)

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(02.23.06) Chihei Hatakeyama evokes a purity of sound on Minima Moralia,
his first release for Kranky. In keeping with the label’s recent
trend towards drones and minimalism, Hatakeyama’s record is a series
of velvety sonic landscapes, broad washes of processed tones and
elongated chimes. Sourced from guitar and vibraphone, the music is
stretched flat via laptop processing and then spread out until it is
so thin that it becomes vaporous.

“Bonfire on the Field,” at over eight minutes in length, spends more
than six of that simply rising from silence. Only in the last two
minutes does a light rustling of sound creep out of the drone tone as
if a slow dawn has finally cast enough light on a field to warm a dead
fire. Hatakeyama’s titles, in a manner unusual these days in
electronic music, actually evoke a sense of the music. “Swaying
Curtain in the Window,” filled with diaphanous tones, twinkles with
tiny motes of melody like sunlight winking through the gentle motion
of a curtain. As more of a breeze kicks up the curtain, the melodies
become more realized, transforming from light vibraphone notes to
flowing runs on an acoustic guitar. “Sunlight Reflecting On The
Surface Of The River” is dappled with tiny reverb, miniscule elements
of back-masking and hitched glitch that echo across the sparkling
tones.

“Towards a Tranquil Marsh” clicks with the circadian buzz of small
insects and glittering lightning bugs before the tones evolve into
melodies of guitar and violin; while “Granular Haze” undulates like a
ribbon of smoke through a crisp winter sky where it chases distant
chimes and is, in turn, pursued by the soft rumble of atmospheric
pressure ridges. “Inside Of The Pocket” is a more personalized
rendition of “Towards a Tranquil Marsh.” Guitar and violin work
together again but the gritty noises and hiss of animal life is more
immediate. It is only in “Beside A Well” that Hatakeyama ventures
into static and detritus as his long waves disintegrate into hissing
noise.

I may have poor acoustics or just crappy speakers on the home system,
but Minima Moralia didn’t really move me until I listened to it
on headphones. In an isolated environment, the sonic depths opened up
and the ambience became pervasive and enfolding. Hatakeyama’s efforts
came alive when I fell into them. They are spaces where I drifted
quite happily.

Minima Moralia is out now on Kranky.

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