Machinone: Tokyo

Machinone, the alias adopted by Daizo Kato, a multi-instrumentalist and composer who hails from Tohoku, Japan, invites misinterpretation, as his music might be many things but is most definitely not machine-like. More than anything it positions itself within the pastoral acoustic folk genre, with the album, Tokyo, breathing the kind of unhurried, natural air that makes it sound as if he recorded it during some extended stay in the countryside, away from the accelerated pace of the city.

With Kato responding to his surroundings, Tokyo amounts to a collection of intimate sketches—alternately nostalgic, melancholy, wistful, and bittersweet—created using acoustic guitar, banjo, clarinet, organ, piano, wood toys, music box, tape recorder, glockenspiel, and field recordings and featuring contributions from guests Danny Norbury, Federico Durand, and Radiosonde member Takashi Tsuda. The results are quietly transporting, especially when ambient sounds of the immediate environment seep into the material to suggest the recording's homemade character (perhaps most noticeably during “Windwijzer” and “Vihrea” where faint bird sounds are audible in between his guitar strums).

Many pieces feature a single instrument, often acoustic guitar, whereas others are more expansive in their arrangements. “Siksy” and “Juha,” for example, are enhanced by the presence of luscious cello playing (Norbury, presumably), while “Driftwood” and “Tegami” assume an even more affecting quality when dreamlike flute and clarinet playing, respectively, accompany the lilt of Kato's acoustic guitar picking. Delicate settings such as “Flower Stamp” and “Tears of Kivi,” however, prove that nothing more than an acoustic guitar is needed to beguile the listener when the compositions in question are so captivating. Admittedly, some degree of shapelessness is unavoidable when an album features nineteen pieces (all but one of the songs is in the one-to-three-minute range), but that's a small price to pay for a collection whose music feels so genuine and is so generally affecting.

October 2014