Chihei Hatakeyama: Requiem for Black Night and Earth Spiders
White Paddy Mountain

Not everyone can hold a listener's attention for sixty-five minutes with music created from a single sound file, but that's precisely what ambient sound artist Chihei Hatakeyama does on his latest release. Sourced from a sound file of electric guitar playing, the recording presents three “Requiem for Black Night and Earth Spiders” variations, two of them in the twenty-five-minute range and the middle one fourteen. Though the project was inspired by earth spiders, the term doesn't refer to literal insects; instead, in Japanese the earth spider is called “Tsuchigumo,” apparently a historical term that in Japanese folklore refers to a race of spider-like yokai (ghosts, phantoms) conquered by the Yamato Imperial court at the end of the third century and forced to work in mines. Given that the material is wholly instrumental, all such background can be ignored depending on the listener's inclinations, though a connection could be drawn between such background and the music's elegiac and oft-mournful tone.

What's most interesting is, as mentioned, the way Hatakeyama commands the listener's attention with these austere meditations. The ethereal settings drift serenely in a manner reminiscent of early Celer recordings, Hatakeyama consistently transforming that single sound file into softly whistling trails of muted colour and reverberant undertow. Their blurry masses advance glacially, often exuding a celestial quality when choir-like murmurings seem to surface alongside tones that gleam and warble. Speaking of Celer, the central variation is perhaps the most Celer-like of the three, given how severely Hatakeyama strips it down to the thinnest of tonal threads. In this case, the material takes on the character of a faintly flickering light, one ever on the verge of expiring. Throughout the release, the ambient alchemist demonstrates a gift for making the most intense shudder seem like the faintest whisper.

May 2016