Near The Parenthesis: Japanese For Beginners

Tim Arndt's fifth Near The Parenthesis outing (his fourth for n5MD) is perhaps as accessible as so-called electronic music gets, as Japanese For Beginners packs nine four-minute melodic IDM-oriented pieces into a fat-free, forty-three-minute collection. Bringing a painterly sensibility to the material, Arndt creates texturally rich, multi-layered tapestries typically populated with piano melodies at the forefront and intricate beat programming behind, with all of it augmented with liberal doses of synthetic and electronic design. What results are less conventional compositions that move through narrative episodes of development, climax, and resolution than serenading dreamscapes of uniform mood. Enhancing the music's entrancing effect is Arndt's decision to have each piece flow seamlessly into the next, a move that allows the album to be experienced as a scene-shifting whole rather than as one filled with distinct tracks.

“Soft Warmly Straw Raincoat” establishes the template with a rich electronic sound-world filled with pretty piano-based sparkle and downtempo hip-hop beats. “Voice and Radio Bureau” augments delicate field of wistful piano playing and radiant electronic atmosphere with insistent rhythm underpinning, while “In Regard to Water” shimmers beatifically, with the keyboards melding into a mesmerizing sound-field and skittish drumming keeping up a soft burble behind. Classical piano playing lends “The Listening Surround” an appealing serenity, and similar classical flavouring emerges in many another track too. Japanese For Beginners doesn't represent a radical new phase in the Near The Parenthesis saga (even if it's clearly more electronic-oriented than 2010's Music for the Forest Concourse), but that need not be construed as criticism as the collection can be heard as a consolidation of the project's strengths. Since issuing Near The Parenthesis material since 2006, the San Francisco-based producer has refined the craft involved in his productions to the level of art, as everything fits together seamlessly and with a satisfying degree of balance, even when there is a large number of sounds in play at any given moment.

March 2011