Radical Fashion: Odori

On his thirty-two minute mini-album Odori, Japanese composer Hirohito Ihara (aka radicalfashion) presents classically-influenced compositions that range exploratively beyond any singular genre's conventions. One might characterize his approach as dualistic, as he accompanies the ‘real-world' connectedness of his elegant piano playing to abstracted sounds that allusively hint at associations with his native country. The vignette “Opening,” for example, includes sounds of slushing water in a metal bucket that evoke the image of townspeople doing daily chores at a remote Japanese village. Bright classical piano patterns dance spiritedly throughout: in “Ballet,” sunlit piano melodies wend a path through the rhythmic clatter of sampled noises; “Photo Dynasmo” loops a bright piano phrase alongside cooing vocal murmurs and soft stutters, until the piece turns aqueous when descending piano runs plunge below the surface and turn hazy. Ihara pushes the formula to a further extreme in “Shousetsu” which embeds a piano nocturne within a repeating mass of alien sounds (inhalations, wipes, a metronome 's tock), an overt fusion of the ‘real' with the ‘dream-like.' The pairing of piano and electronic textures is handled with restraint in Ihara's ethereal pieces, such as in “Shunpoudoh” where Japanese voice fragments babble over a percussive clopping ostinato, whistling electronics, and a repeated piano phrase. Likewise, the pitched tones in “Usunibi” that stretch, overlap, ebb, and flow approximate a drone in microcosm. During the album, two composer references declare themselves that symbolize the key components in his style: the elegant piano setting “Suna” ends (too literally) with a direct quote of Ravel's Ma Mere L'Oye (the French composer's Piano Concerto in G made a huge impression on Ihara as a young boy), while the fluttering strums and surging tones in “Toh-Koh” evoke Steve Reich's Electric Counterpoint; the flute patterns in “Thousand” suggest Reich too, while the CD skipping patterns that underlay the piano patterns may remind some of Oval. But don't get the wrong impression: though Ihara's Odori may include an occasional reference to a precursor or two, it remains a very personal and often arresting statement.

July 2007