Paniyolo: Tama No Koto

With the release of Tama No Koto, Muneki Takasaka (aka Paniyolo) is slowly building up an impressive body of work that includes his 2009 debut album I'm Home, 2012's Hi To Te Ma, and 2013's Christmas Album. Tama No Koto is Paniyolo in its purest form, with the fifty-two-minute collection featuring instrumental folk songs Takasaka recorded at Guzuri Recording House, a wooden cafe studio located at the Irima area in the Saitama Prefecture, during two days in January 20015. Musically, the presentation is as unadorned as it could possibly be, with Takasaka on acoustic guitar accompanied by Hirofumi Nakamura on acoustic guitar and mandolin.

A feeling of warmth and intimacy is present throughout the recording in the way falling rain, trees rustled by the wind, and other ambient sounds act as a backdrop to the gentle playing of Takasaka and Nakamura. Tama No Koto is filled with gentle folk reveries that are heartfelt, wistful, and melancholy; they're not despairing, though, but rather infused with an uplifting, hopeful spirit. They're also strong in melody, with Takasaka the one voicing the songs' lead melodies and occasionally soloing and Nakamura providing invaluable support. Songs alternate between 4/4 and 3/4 time, with those in the latter category, such as “Ballad,” proving especially endearing in the way the two musicians bring the lilting waltz style to life.

Included in the seventeen settings are two reprised from I'm Home (“Ame,” “Kurashi”) and a stirring cover of Bob Marley's “Redemption Song.” It's no surprise that it's an album highlight, given its melodic potency; recognizing that straying greatly from the original would be unwise, Takasaka plays it straight and replicates Marley's vocal delivery without unnecessary embellishment. In general terms, the genuine affection for the material that Takasaka and Nakamura express in their performances is perhaps the recording's greatest strength. Enhancing the impact of the release is a simple yet lovely box design that houses the CD as well as photo images and a sheet of liner notes (in Japanese only). Presented is such a manner, the release really does create the impression of being a gift given from Paniyolo to the listener.

June 2015