Akira Kosemura, Megumi Shinozaki & Kimihiko Nitta: For

With its parts carefully housed within a sturdy box, For is without a doubt one of the most beautifully presented projects you'll encounter in this or any other year. In combining the music of Akira Kosemura, the flower artistry of Megumi Shinozaki, and the film and photographic work of Kimihiko Nitta into a CD-DVD-Photobook format, the collaborative release is also probably the most elaborate and ambitious release to have yet come from Kosemura's highly regarded Schole label.

The striking soft-cover booklet features sixty full-colour photos by Nitta, most of them of a pastoral nature showing model Shin Lee lolling about in mostly countryside settings filled with trees, streams, and iridescent flowers; a narrative of sorts is suggested by the photos as the time-frame seems to change from morning to late-afternoon over the course of the book (an evocative poem accompanying the release also reinforces the narrative impression). It's a lovely complement to the project's other parts and one that impresses as a stand-alone component that can be appreciated and enjoyed on its own purely visual terms.

The CD features nine short pieces by Kosemura, the composer credited with toy piano, keyboards, and sound programming and joined by four string players (violins, viola, violoncello), drummer, and mallet percussionist. Regardless of the differences between the tracks, the music is clearly marked by Kosemura's trademark melodic sensibility and a general tone of joyous uplift. His piano is often the central instrument, but the other instruments are prominent, too. While the ascending melodic patterns in “New World,” for example, are voiced by the piano, the keyboard's playing is amplified by the parallel voicings of the strings and vibraphone. “Gene” parts company from the CD's other pieces in featuring a trip-hop exercise and an arrangement heavy in electric piano, synthesizer, drums, and vinyl crackle; the brief outro “Then” derives its distinctive character when the toy piano is the single instrument heard. In those cases where Kosemura plays alone, such as the lilting minuet “Waves of Light,” pretty “Her” (which during its second half revisits “New World”), and wistful title setting (its nostalgic tone leavened by ambient sounds of the outdoors), the music hardly suffers from the solo presentation. Twenty minutes of music isn't a lot, obviously, yet Kosemura and company nevertheless manage to cover a generous amount of stylistic ground in that concentrated span.

The twenty-minute film, with direction by Nitta and art direction and flower credited to Shinozaki, is a motion-picture analogue to the Photobook, with this time film footage of the flowers-cradling Lee and the sunlit outdoor settings enhanced by Kosemura's music. As one might expect, his nine pieces are synchronized to the film imagery, and the character of the film's scenes and the music typically mirror one another. The city feel of “Gene,” for example, is reflected in footage of Lee transplanted from the countryside to the city, while elsewhere the insistent rhythms of the music are doubled by the sight of Lee climbing stairs. As pleasurable as it is to listen to the CD or look through the Photobook, the project's fullest culmination understandably arrives in the DVD component for the simple fact that it integrates the separate elements into a singular presentation. That that's so doesn't, however, devalue the other parts as they're satisfying components in their own right.

January 2016