Harold Nono/Hidekazu Wakabayashi: Harold Nono/Hidekazu Wakabayashi
Bearsuit Records

As often happens these days, Harold Nono and Hidekazu Wakabayashi first met by chance via the internet. They exchanged songs and, liking what each heard of the other's work, decided to collaborate on a few pieces. As things progressed, a rapport developed between them in spite of their contrasting backgrounds: the Osaka-born Wakabayashi is associated with electroacoustic ambient music of the kind featured on Schole (the label, in fact, included Wakabayashi's music on a 2007 compilation); the Edinburgh, Scotland-based Nono at one time played guitar for indie-punk bands Idiot Half Brother and the Pep Boys and recently issued the album Bedroom Stories with Nonine head Me Raabenstein under the name Taub. So it wouldn't be unreasonable to think that Nono and Wakabayashi would produce something midway between their respective styles on their joint album. As it turns out, the collection is far closer in spirit to a delicate Schole or Flau recording than anything as aggressive as punk (the cover photo of the child playing in the outdoors suggests as much), though Nono does manage to sneak in a bit of burning electric guitar on a track or two. The pair conjure peaceful pastoralia in sonically rich settings built from splashes of acoustic and electric pianos, guitar shadings, autoharp strums, and mallet percussion tinkles, and vocals and field recordings surface now and then too.

The collaboration is never more effective than on “Family” where gentle patterns of piano, glockenspiel, and melodica wheeze form a wistful whole. One of the album's prettiest pieces is “Ya Chaika,” which ornaments elegant acoustic piano ruminations with glissandi-like slivers of electronics. For half of its running time “Teenage Desk” restricts itself to sleep-inducing overlays of wordless vocals but then jolts awake with the addition of bright guitar and glockenspiel melodies. There is an occasional departure from the general style—in keeping with its title, “Let's Go Find Mushrooms,” for instance, exudes a bit of Smile's baroque playfulness—but “I've Heard Giants,” a meditative, piano-based setting seemingly designed to evoke an outdoors idyll, is more representative of the album's soothing style.

June 2010