okamotonoriaki: Telescope

Okamoto Noriaki may be an established Tokyo-based audio-visual artist and Tama Arts University Graphic Design graduate, but Telescope shows that the Osaka-born artist is equally talented when in the area of music production. There's little tentative about his first album under the okamotonoriaki name, and the album's ten pieces are more polished than one would expect from a debut outing. In contrast to Mü-nest's more pastoral output, Telescope is an upbeat and exuberant set of electronic pop-infused tracks brimming with sing-song piano melodies, colourful synth effects, and punchy drum beats; percussion flourishes and an occasional glockenspiel add to the material's sonic richness (perhaps most evidently heard during the closer “Home,” which surrounds its sparse piano melodies with chattering clicks, blips, and other textures).

“Island” effectively eases the listener into the album with four laid-back minutes of piano-driven electro-pop underpinned by a dub-styled lilt and elevated by smatterings of synthetic sparkle. The similarly dub-inflected “Polynesia” finds crackling textures panning across the stereo field while ambient synths flower and a deep bass line throbs. One of the album's major strengths is its beats. The supple downtempo funk groove Noriaki produces in “Lighthouse” from drumbeat programming, for example, breathes as naturally as if a live drummer had recorded it to tape. The muted trumpet sounds and ostinato piano patterns in “Wyburn” likewise receive a major boost from the crisp kick of the song's driving pulse. Remove the the rambunctious beatwork charging across its flickering keyboard melodies and “Polar” could easily pass for a lullaby.

As pleasing a listen as it is, the album isn't without its missteps. “Recorder” would be a passable marriage of hyperactive breakbeats and dancing melodies were it not marred by an annoying computer-generated voiceover. Such lapses in judgment are few and far between, however, and appear to a lesser degree than normally occurs on a debut outing. (The first 100 of the limited edition, 400-CD run include a DVD featuring exclusive videos of three album tracks.)

October 2010