Opitope: Physis

Physis might seem to be a somewhat curious title choice for this sophomore effort from Chihei Hatakeyama and Illuha member Tomoyoshi Date, if, that is, one thinks of it in terms of the difference in meaning between physis and nomos as outlined within pre-Socratic philosophy, with the latter referring to those aspects of human existence that are rooted in convention (and thus changeable) and the former to things of a permanent nature. There's no need to puzzle in this case, however, as info accompanying the release helpfully clarifies the meaning Opitope intended for the recording to convey, with physis referring to nature's “invisible generating power” and thus centering on its creative energy rather than simply its immutable character.

It's been seven years since Hau, Opitope's debut collection (and two years since the last SPEKK release, incidentally), and much has changed during that time—not only have technologies and electronic producers' working methods advanced dramatically but so too have things changed in Opitope's extra-musical world: whereas Hau's subject matter concerns a journey of travels from south to north, Physis was created in the wake of the devastating 2011 earthquake in Northeast Japan and thus deals with a recovery process that sees destroyed and depopulated lands becoming once again verdant and rich with promise and hope for the future.

Its CD housed within a distinctive, large-format package, the forty-four-minute Physis features four long-form pieces, all conceived by Opitope to be “imaginative stories.” Hatakeyama and Date are electroacoustic soundsculptors who, the evidence suggests (no instrumentation details are provided), use conventional instruments, such as piano, acoustic bass, percussion, and guitar (acoustic and electric), in conjunction with found and processed sounds, electronics, and nature-based field recordings. Bell tinkles appear alongside the radiant shimmer of electronics, and wind rustle, bird chirps, water dribble, and traffic noise accompany fragmented expressions of piano and guitar. No one element dominates, and sounds are woven together to form shape-shifting, multi-hued patchworks. The mood established by the typical Opitope piece—the closing “The Dawn of Memories” a good example—is peaceful, serene, and meditative, and the duo's drifting material unfolds at a slow and measured pace that encourages both reflection and immersion. Most importantly, Opitope's music can at times be arrestingly beautiful, as demonstrated by the closing minutes of “Light Blue Mist and Ripple” where its collective sound mass rises to a shimmering, climactic wave of splendour.

March 2014