Fjordne: Moonlit Invocations
White Paddy Mountain

Sakana Hosomi & Chihei Hatakeyama: Frozen Silence
White Paddy Mountain

These latest releases from Chihei Hatakeyama's White Paddy Mountain label present contrasting sides of the Japanese imprint: Hatakeyama's collaboration with Sakana Hosomi is very much in line with the kind of material we've come to expect from the label, whereas FJORDNE's is a more curious creature that draws a number of different styles into its orbit.

It's not easy determining where Sakana Hosomi ends and Chihei Hatakeyama begins on their Frozen Silence collaboration, though exactly who's doing what on the recording is ultimately less relevant than the material itself. If Hosmomi's name at first seems unfamiliar, the recognition value goes up when mention is made of the Neina albums he released on Mille Plateaux (1999's Formed Verse, 2000's Subconsciousness) and his involvement in the group Maju (which issued five albums on the Australian Extreme label between 1999 and 2008). Hatakeyama, on the other hand, is a well-known quality in these parts, with many of his releases having received coverage at textura in the past.

The six settings on Frozen Silence—the title naturally intimating that another label home for it could have been Glacial Movements—were recorded at Hosomi's studio and taken from live performance. In essence, the fifty-minute recording could be characterized as meditative ambient-dronescaping, with processed electric guitar shadings, synthesizers, and other keyboards melded together to suggest the slow drift of ice floes (the ten-minute closer “In a Cave” is perhaps the most perfect exemplar of the style). It's also easy to hear the crackle and hiss flowing through “Frostwork III” as the amplification of ice-related activity occurring at the micro-level.

When music of such minimalistic design is presented, even the smallest of details assumes greater significance. In a busier piece, the quiet pitter-patter of water droplets might go unnoticed, for example, whereas in this context such accents stand out, and a track title such as “A Little Fairy on the Cold Glass” possesses a similarly evocative power. Antecedents for the music on Frozen Silence occasionally declare themselves. For example, it's almost impossible to listen to the becalmed piano-and-electronics setting “Collapsing Huge Glaciers and the Sun” and not be reminded of Eno's early ambient releases, including the ones he recorded with Harold Budd. That being said, for the most part Frozen Silence ends up sounding like a production by Sakana Hosomi and Chihei Hatakeyama than anyone else.

Moonlit Invocations is, as mentioned, a different animal altogether. Tokyo-based Fujimoto Shunichiro, who's issued a variety of EPs and albums since 2008 on U-Cover, Dynamophone, Ryoondo Tea, SEM, and Kitchen. Label, assembled this sixth FJORDNE album over a three-year span. Pitched as something of a homage to ‘60s jazz, the forty-six-minute collection surrounds lounge jazz piano playing with a woozy cocktail of dusty downtempo beats, vinyl crackle, horn samples, mangled voices, and electronic effects. Shunichiro's piano playing, which variously calls to mind everyone from Keith Jarrett and Vince Guaraldi to Errol Garner, exudes a clarity and refinement that contrasts sharply with the hazy atmosphere collectively generate by the other elements. It's an album filled with unexpected moments where a smoky saxophone is as likely to turn up as a muffled choir.

Appropriately, a dreamy quality permeates much of the densely layered material, with lilting serenades such as “Rejoice; Moon” and “Capsella” more than capable of inducing a swoon in the receptive listener, and the pairing of piano with a slow-motion, head-nodding groove (as happens during “Glati” and “Coenbiac”) makes for an arresting and unusual result. The album conjures the faded Polaroid image of some sweater-clad teenager from the early ‘60s gazing intently on a vinyl album cover as Shunichiro's FJORDNE musings fill the air. It's probably safe to say that nothing quite like Moonlit Invocations has appeared before on White Paddy Mountain, which makes it all the easier to recommend it.

June 2015