fryadius: Musical EXPO.
Kita Kouhei: Endless Cycle of Rebirth
Both of these releases, Kita Kouhei's debut album and Yoshihiro Furuya's second fryadlus collection, overflow with imagination and ideas. The recordings sound like the spawn of young Japanese producers who've lived and breathed digital data since they took their first breaths and thus are never more comfortable than when they're navigating their way through dazzling soundworlds built using electronic means. Unconcerned about distinctions between acoustic and non-acoustic sounds, the two instead focus on assembling tracks into encompassing set-pieces, miniature sound paintings rich in colour and effervescent in spirit.
Aside from vocal contributions by Naoko Takayama to a couple of songs, Endless Cycle of Rebirth is wholly the creation of Kouhei, who brings his training as a drummer and pianist to the project as well as a whole lot more. Given his background, beats are naturally plentiful, but they're merely one part of the picture. The typical Kouhei setting teems with detail, its range extending from muted trumpet and percussion to shimmering keyboards and kalimbas. Grainy digital textures sit comfortably alongside found sounds and acoustic instruments in these pieces, which exemplify a song-like structure that puts them in a separate category from collage. In the title track, for instance, a simple kalimba figure functions as a grounding element that allows a freer flow of jazzy piano sprinkles and myriad noise textures to resound comfortably alongside it. At times the track title accurately captures the musical mood: “Lunar Ruins” unspools in dreamingly slow manner, its gathering of synth washes, piano, and flute collectively hinting at a state of melancholy reflection, whereas “Voyage Diary” juxtaposes pencil-like scratching, warbling synths, and finger pianos to vivid and suggestive effect. Beat-wise, many tracks flirt with downtempo funk and hip-hop, but it would be more accurate to describe them as simply instrumental sound-paintings shaped with melodic song form in mind. Kouhei presumably didn't set out to demonstrate his versatility as a musician, but the recording's ten songs make it nonetheless plainly evident.
The press release's characterization of Musical EXPO. as “rainbow-colored bedroom music” says much about the dazzling character of Furuya's fryadlus material. Its twelve tracks constitute as jubilant and energy-charged a brand of electronic pop as one might possibly encounter, so much so that as vibrant as Endless Cycle of Rebirth is, it seems calm and controlled when heard next to fryadlus's set. Two years on from his Pocket Fantasy debut, Furuya, similar to Kouhei, augments his formal training as a guitarist with advanced programming skills, and supplements them with a mini-orchestra of keyboards, flutes, saxophones, drums, and percussion. The album's sunkissed spirit is evident immediately when flute and steel drums levitate the rambunctious opener “Oideyo” with joyful melodies. Even more breezy is “Muchuyuei,” which sails effortlessly across ever-active seas, and the jazz-inflected “Tokei No Hazama,” while “Hanauma” plays like some prog-flavoured fusion of Asian and Scottish musical forms. The amount of detail he packs into these three- to five-minute pieces is impressive, regardless of whether the setting is folk-like in nature (see “Tsukimi”) or otherwise. It should be obvious by now that Musical EXPO. is rarely sedate: “Brute Beat” races at a breakneck clip, and as the fifty-six-minute collection breathlessly advances until it reaches its high-spirited closer “End Roll,” it grows increasingly clear that Furuya's world is one unsullied by cynicism and brimming with childlike splendour.