Tomotsugu Nakamura: An Opened Book In The Dark

Chihei Hatakeyama mastered Tomotsugu Nakamura's third album, An Opened Book in the Dark, and David Newman and Marcus Fischer receive thanks on the sleeve—two related details that, even before a single note sounds, imply much about the style of Nakamura's recording. The fifty-minute release features thirteen settings that blend fragments of acoustic, electronic, and field recording sounds into delicate, detail-intensive ambient tapestries. Narrative conventions involving rising action, climax, and denouement are eschewed in favour of electro-acoustic miniatures that hew to consistent dynamic levels for two to eight minutes at a time. A strong cut-and-paste aesthetic is evidenced in the way the Japanese sound painter weaves micro-edits of acoustic guitar, piano, melodica, thumb piano, acoustic bass, and real-world noises into flickering arrays.

In truth, An Opened Book in the Dark doesn't radically depart from the tone and style of 2014's Soundium (also on Kaico), though such a thing isn't necessarily objectionable. In both cases, a baker's dozen of quietly radiant ambient-electronica pieces appear, some of them stuttering in classic Oval-like fashion, others playful in the manner of a typical Lullatone track (e.g., “Morning Cradle”). And though each Nakamura setting stimulates the senses with an ever-mutating flow of detail, the result manages to still feel peaceful and pastoral. “Grains in the Air,” for example, pops, crackles, and flutters incessantly for five minutes without losing its sense of calm, and even when the album is at its most rhythmically insistent (see “Sound Portrait”), the listener ends up being more soothed than frazzled. A clearly defined aesthetic and production approach carry over from one piece to the next, making for a unified presentation, but different impressions are naturally prompted by evocative song titles such as “Icicles,” “Grains in the Air,” and “Grapefruit Moon.”

November 2016