Ken Ikeda + Chihei Hatakeyama: Moss
White Paddy Mountain

Many of the collaborative releases involving Chihei Hatakeyama on his White Paddy Mountain label are, stylistically speaking, ambient in nature. Moss, his joint creation with Tokyo-born and current London resident Ken Ikeda, is a more animated collection by comparison, one that, while wholly instrumental, presents concise, song-like structures as opposed to extended ambient soundscapes. Moss wasn't created in a single session or over a couple of days; instead, the forty-minute album's nine pieces were assembled from recordings the two produced in studio sessions spanning two-and-a-half years.

Hatakeyama's a well-known quality in these parts, the sound artist a prolific creator who's issued an ever-growing body of work under his own name and with Tomoyoshi Date in the electroacoustic outfit Opitope; a less familiar presence is Ikeda, an experimental musician whose first release Tzuki appeared on Touch and who has worked with Toshimaru Nakamura and many other artists and musicians.

Though no instrument-related details are included with the release, keyboards, synthesizers, guitar, field recordings, and electronics all appear to have been utilized in the construction of the pieces. The tone of the album is sunny, radiant, and bright, the music itself vibrant with colour and dense with detail. In “koke,” the duo melds layers of electric guitar shadings and e-bow-like effects with sparkling synthetic shimmer to establish a becalmed beginning to the album, whereas the polychromatic drift of “Tsuyu To Kie” glistens like sunlight flickering through tree branches on a sleepy summer's day. The natural and instrument worlds peacefully converge during “Zehi No Shidai” when sounds from the outdoors merge with fluttering guitars and processing treatments.

Each self-contained setting unfolds with organic purpose and makes its case with economical dispatch before ceding the stage to the next. While Moss is nominally ambient (“Ukigumo” perhaps the purest instantiation), a subtle hint of prog at times surfaces in certain pieces, despite these hazy, sun-dappled settings being considerably shorter than the prog norm. Whatever Moss is, it's assuredly not depressing, even if a slight hint of industrial darkness does cast the closing “Inei” in shadow.

March 2016