Akira Kosemura: Niji no Kanata—Seven Colors Variations

At first glance, Niji no Kanata—Seven Colors Variations appears to be a new full-length release from Tokyo-based Akira Kosemura, whereas, in actual fact, the forty-one-minute recording features a single original by the Schole founder followed by six remixes of the song by I Am Robot And Proud, Metome, Toshiyuki Yasuda, Madegg, Lawrence English, and [.que]. But let's not get overly sidetracked by whether it should be called an extended single, EP, or mini-album, and get on to the business at hand. Kosemura has become known for his exquisite acoustic piano playing, but a wholly different side, one almost totally synthetic and electronic, is presented in this latest release. I don't know whether he purposefully set out to create the definitive electropop song or not, but, regardless, “Niji no Kanata” could make a strong claim to the title. It's certainly one of the prettiest pieces of music I've heard in a long time.

Up first, Kosemura's original receives a significant boost from the participation of the singer Lasah, whose hushed delivery complements the song's radiant sound design and soothing, midtempo flow. Its subtly wistful character is also heightened by the entrancing keyboard melodies Kosemura threads throughout the song, patterns that form a mirror-like counterpoint to Lasah's cooing vocal. Just past the halfway mark, the song gloriously blossoms into an even more radiant production through the addition of sleigh bells and synthetic washes.

The accompanying versions vary in character in a way that naturally reflects the styles that have come to be associated with the remixers' own work. In that regard, I Am Robot And Proud's treatment retains the poppy essence of the original whilst beefing it up in its rhythmic presentation. If Shaw-Han Liem twists the song into slightly funkier shape, Metome jacks it up even further by radically re-imagining “Niji no Kanata” as a feverish, synth-heavy track replete with trippy cut-up vocal effects and delirious wind-ups. Madegg likewise takes the song to the club with a driving, house-inflected makeover that transforms Lasah's vocal into a swirling loop. Diametrically opposed to such club-centric versions are Toshiyuki Yasuda's, who recasts the song as a pastoral electroacoustic reverie that pairs the vocal with delicate acoustic guitar and piano playing, and Lawrence English's, whose luminous, ambient-styled soundscaping treatment is very much in keeping with what one might expect from the Room40 label head. At album's end, Nao Kakimoto's [.que] remix brings the recording to a satisfying close by reminding us once again of the song's resplendent melodic virtues.

January 2014