Ex Confusion: Embrace

Anyone in desperate need of rehabilitative respite from the madness of the modern world need look no further than Embrace, the second album of Ex Confusion music by Atsuhito Omori. The album's ten settings are, in fact, so soothing and therapeutic, they render pharmaceutical healing unnecessary. Omori's approach is relatively simple by today's standards: using guitar or piano as source instruments, he processes their sounds extensively until stately, slow-moving settings of uncommon beauty result. In “If There Is Love” and “Sketches For the Truth,” Omori uses reverb to build repeating piano patterns into cathedral-like edifices, with the latter in particular reaching for an effect that's unabashedly celestial (even though it's no longer than four minutes). The gentle, glimmering haze floating through “Speak Softly in My Dreams” and “With You” also speaks to the listener at some fundamental level with a powerful sense of immediacy.

While it wouldn't be wrong to label the material ambient, the term, too reductive in this case, does somewhat of a disservice to Omori's music in categorizing it too simplistically. Stately, harmonious, and consonant, his curatives for the soul aren't static or lacking in development, and they're more emotionally potent than the ambient norm. Embrace doesn't keep the listener at arm's length but rather stirs something deep within without lapsing into sentimentality, and song titles such as “When I Think of You” and “If There Is Love” likewise eschew abstraction for direct expressions of feeling. It's interesting that in addition to an album for U-cover (Something to Remember), the self-taught musician also recently appeared on the For Nihon Japanese earthquake relief compilation overseen by Keith Kenniff (Helios, Goldmund) and issued in 2011. Admirers of Kenniff's output would be well advised to check out Embrace too, given that it, like many a Kenniff recording, exudes a spirit of uplift and affirmation that's always welcome. The sun-dappled nature imagery (the photos are also by Kenniff, incidentally) adorning the cover proves to be a pastoral match for the music on this forty-five-minute collection.

April 2012