Chihei achieves a felicitous juxtaposition of analogue sound sources, digital processing and musicianly sensibility, imbuing Mirror, for all its floaty-drifty hyper-ethereality, with a certain satisfying loamy quality – a sonorous life less ordinary, both below and above.
On Mirror, Chihei Hatakeyama draws on the earliest recorded period of Japan’s history in a form of meditation on the place of reflection, realized through sonic semiosis. During the Kofun era the mirror was seemingly revered for its ability to shift and reflect light from one location to another, an act endowed with a quasi-magical aura, and the reflective concept is picked up on thematically and methodologically by Hatakeyama.
His house style, established on 2006 debut, Minima Moralia and sustained through a series of quietly compelling releases through to last year’s Ghostly Garden, is one that privileges texture, to the point of shunning electronic sources for fragments of actual played guitars and vibes. But no purist, he, for, post-sourcing, this Tokyo tone-drone-crone’s organically-reared delicacies are easy meat – processing prey, bound for a laptop-mediated second life. It’s all done with Mirror: passages recorded then re-recorded in a variety of reverberant spaces to bring out the inner harmonic attributes of the sources, along with the subtle overtones and fluctuations afforded by the characteristics of location, the outcomes then laid out and stitched into tracks of minutes – 16, 10, 3 and 9 respectively, with three interludes of raw field recordings are folded into the main courses, as if palate-cleansers to the richer more heavily seasoned fare. Of instrument presence all that’s left of vibraphone, piano and guitar is a flickering rapture of metals and a drowning pool of chime and hum. Our first is in “Ferrum,” beatific washes of harmonic overtones peeling to reveal, ripples outfolding into waves, with interstitial trills and spills. The second in “Spilth,” more sombre, even ominous, with a clear space between low flow and aerial vapours, cleaving to a single chordal centre while a shifting cast of timbres runs through it, the ambiguous mood resolving toward something lighter late in the day. Then the deceptively placid “Renitency,” more abrasively sibilant, a throaty quality to its pitches at both ends, granular synthesis sweeps threading liquid tones with particulate pleasures. The closing “Alchemy” is a beauty – all silken streamers stretching skywards, ending ascending. The cloth-eared may say he flirts with the cloying but it’s clear to hear in Hatakeyama’s design a certain distinction from those of the new ambient drone clan who too readily pledge allegiance to the land of the twee. So, our man Chihei achieves a felicitous juxtaposition of analogue sound sources, digital processing and musicianly sensibility, imbuing Mirror, for all its floaty-drifty hyper-ethereality, with a certain satisfying loamy quality – a sonorous life less ordinary, both below and above.
Mirror can be seen as a further contribution to a now-discernible tradition in which Hatakeyama can be placed, along with a number of like-minded artists peddling a form of post-digital No-Age spiritualism wherein the aleatory/improvisational of post-ambient experimentalism colludes with a vague fluffy digital-mystical energy, on labels from Kranky to 12k to Hibernate in lull-labs from Tokyo to Tucson to er… Brisbane, out of which unlikely surfie-spot Room40 has plied its trade for 10 years – celebrated bounteously with this freebie (now exhale, here’s “Alchemy”)
Mirror is available on Room40.