Motohiro Nakashima: We Hum On the Way Home

Born in Hiroshima in 1980 and currently Nara-based, Motohiro Nakashima issued his first album I Went to Sleep in 2004 on Lo Recordings and the follow-up I Dreamt Constellations Song on LoAF three years later. His third, We Hum On The Way Home, is the latest addition to Schole's ongoing line of beautiful recordings. It's as warm in spirit and as ravishing in melodic character as the label's previous releases but differs from them in its expanded instrumental palette. In addition to Nakashima's guitar (acoustic and electric), piano, and voice, the eleven pieces are enriched by a chamber ensemble of cello, clarinet, glockenspiel, trombone, and violin players. Nakashima isn't afraid to yield the spotlight to his guests either, with Michiru Nakashima's soft clarinet leading the way through a bucolic paradise during the lovely “Tragedy of Our Field” (the piece also beautifully framed by a hymnal intro and outro), Jeff Bernhardt's muted trombone playing adding a feline growl to “A Cat See the World Spinning Round,” and Akiko Igaki's sweetly singing violin and Nakashima's soft voice elevating the prettiness of “A Few Minutes Before the Dawn” (she also contributes a lovely voice-and-piano setting, “Mom Piano,” to the recording). Acting as a unifying thread for the material, Nakashima's piano and acoustic guitar are prominent too, with the latter the main, crystalline support for Bernhardt's lead trombone playing in “The Southern Cross.”

Though the range of instrumental sounds is one of the recording's obvious distinguishing characteristics, what truly recommends We Hum On The Way Home are two things in particular: the purely natural sound of the playing (aside from a field recording of nature sounds, electronic-oriented enhancements are conspicuously absent, though they may be involved on the production end), and the beauty of the compositional writing. Nakashima has a clear gift for weaving multiple lines of melancholic character into soothing, five-minute set-pieces. Tracks such as “Song Before You Came,” “Duck Pond Evening,” and the wistful closer “Homeward Bound,” like much of the album, are as peaceful as country streams and tonics for any troubled soul.

September 2009