Naph: Autumn Of The Saroos

Otherwise established as an engineer (for artists such as Tujiko Noriko and World's End Girlfriend) and collaborator (with Chihei Hatakeyama and Tomoyasu Takanishi in All The Frogs Are Our Week End, for example), Naph (real name Toru Ohara) also creates pretty electroacoustic songs and soundscapes, twenty of which compose his double-CD set Autumn Of The Saroos. It's an endearing and intimate collection that features sixteen pieces on one disc (some as short as thirty seconds and one as long as eleven minutes) and four experimental explorations on the other.

Disc one, Far Sounds, is especially endearing when the focus is on the delicate acoustic guitar picking that dominates many of the songs; the inclusion of field recordings (nature sounds, family life, children's voices, etc.) is also a positive, as is the unusual sonic colour a warbly mini-moog contributes to the more experimental pieces. The disc often alternates between an acoustic guitar-based setting and an experimental one, with the latter sometime sounding like an explorative miniature produced by The BBC Radiophonic Workshop (“Layer Feedback,” for example). Titles alone hint at a given song's content: “Rainydays,” and “Countryside” are pastoral acoustic songs, whereas “Seascapes” and “Far Sounds” are field recordings-oriented. The latter, the aforementioned long piece, sounds as if Naph took his acoustic guitar into the countryside and recorded himself playing by a river and surrounded by insect thrum and bird chirp. The disc's sole weak element is the amateurish flugelhorn playing that drags down the material whenever it appears (both Naph and Shinobu Nagao are credited with the instrument) and which would have been better omitted altogether.

Disc two, Autumn of The Saroos, draws inspiration from the musique concrete tradition, and it hardly surprises that its four pieces are uncompromisingly experimental in contrast to the sometimes melodic nature of the first disc. Think long-form space drones, equipment noise, and microtonal minimalism, with nature field recordings sprinkled throughout to lend the material a real-world foundation. Time slows considerably during these constructions, which sees the zenith reached in “Shirakami,” a seventeen-minute collage of insect chirp, acoustic guitar playing, and myriad alien noises of one kind or another. Needless to say, the first disc's the more accessible one of the two and the natural entry point. Having said that, there's a strong home-made feel to the ninety-minute collection, which adds rather than detracts from its appeal, and so too does its handsome packaging. It might be added that Autumn of The Saroos is also the first release on Naph's own Ambiencephono label.

May 2013