Takagi Masakatsu: Journal For People

Takagi Masakatsu's CD-DVD project Journal For People was originally released in 2002 on Harumi Hosono's (ex-Yellow Magic Orchestra) Daisyworld label yet doesn't sound dated or stale in the least. On the hour-long CD, the classically-trained Masakatsu creates a bright ambient-folktronic sound whose glitchy detailing sometimes recalls Nobukazu Takemura (“Ketle 1” could reside comfortably on Scope, for example). In his pieces, Masakatsu boldly commingles acoustic and electronic elements but is careful to distinguish the songs' rich arrangements with resonant, even sometimes child-like melodies. In “J.F.P.,” for instance, a simple but elegant piano melody chimes over insistent machine rhythms while a gentle voice wordlessly sings in “Piano” alongside a gently rippling piano line and distant children's voices. Though Masakatsu anchors “Ketle 3” with a glitchy stream, what gives the song its memorable character is the woozy swoon of its accordion-styled melodies, and the entrancing weave of voices, fireworks pops, piano, and accordion in “Wonderland” is precisely that. Unlike many albums that start strongly and fade, Journal For People gets stronger in its second half as Masakatsu shifts the emphasis to lush piano-based compositions like the Glass-styled “Birdland.” Basking in the wistful Rota-like piano melody that floats through “Aqua” and “Waltz,” one wonders why the album's domestic release didn't happen years earlier.

Masakatsu deftly synchronizes his music to its visual counterpart in the equally impressive DVD. Jittery rhythms in “Ketle,” for example, are mirrored in the choppy configurations of water that cascade over footage of children playing at the beach. His visuals offer an elegant and painterly complement that's simultaneously representational and abstract (e.g., skating figures altered into choppy blurs)—just like his music. We see the familiar with fresh eyes, as Masakatsu transforms the often mundane dross of everday experience into compelling scenes; in his hands, even something as simple as children jumping (“Baraisou”) assumes a poetic gravitas that startles for being so unexpected. An elegant fusion of visuals and sound is witnessed throughout, whether it be starburst clusters exploding against the sky (“Wonderland”), a illuminated silhouettes of amusement park rides against a black sky (“Light Park #2”), or birds flying above the trees or perched on telephone wires (“Birdland”). Calling Journal For People a triumph might seem hyperbolic but the release is collectively so accomplished it rightfully earns the accolade.

April 2006