Chihei Hatakeyama: Mirror

A bit of background enhances one's appreciation for Chihei Hatakeyama's Mirror, the Tokyo-based producer's ROOM40 follow-up to 2009's Saunter. Part of the inspiration for the recording came from the Kofun era, the earliest recorded period of Japan's history, with Hatakeyama drawing on the importance placed on reflection during that time. In that context, the mirror became an understandable source of inspiration for its ability to reflect light from one location to another, and in turn became a key impetus for Hatakeyama's recording and the methodology he used for its production. Specifically, he re-recorded layers of composed instrumental passages in a number of reverberant spaces, and in so doing he amplified the harmonic density of the originating material and the overtones that were generated through the re-recording process.

Hatakeyama gives the recording distinguishing character by inserting three field recordings between the four formal compositions (three of them in the nine- to sixteen-minute range), and the short field recordings settings (all titled by date recorded) not only form a bridge from one composed setting to the next but also add an appealing degree of contrast to the recording; that's especially welcome because, while Hatakeyama uses acoustic and electric instruments such as guitar, vibraphone, and piano as sources, he also manipulates them until they lose their identifying character and generally become inseparable parts of a larger mass. As a result, the alternation between abstract ambient sounds and real-world activities becomes all the more satisfying when seaside sounds of water, wind, birds, and footsteps (“May 15, 2010”) and traffic and crowd noises (“October 3, 2009”) separate the beatific ambient tones and washes that make up “Ferrum,” the harmonic reverberations of “Spilth,” and the softly whistling placidity of “Renitency.”

October 2011