Semuin: Province
Audio Dregs

Yuichiro Fujimoto: Kinoe
Audio Dregs

While both of these latest recordings from Semuin and Yuichiro Fujimoto are mastered by Greg Davis and issued by Audio Dregs, they have more in common than mere production details. Both albums are filled with peaceful idylls and exude an intimate, home-made feel. Of course there are differences—Semuin's album showcases a more pronounced electronic dimension while Fujimoto's sounds more minimal by comparison—but there are enough connections to make them a natural pair.

It doesn't surprise that Greg Davis endorses Semuin's (Berliner Johan Breese) Province so enthusiastically in press info accompanying the release. After all, Semuin's organic approach is complementary to Davis's own: both demonstrate an equal affection for bucolic, natural sounds derived from acoustic instruments and field recordings, as well as digital manipulations of that material and electronic sounds in general. In fact, Semuin's “Upland,” a meditative setting of piano, kalmia, and acoustic guitar, might just as easily have appeared on Arbor or Curling Pond Woods; his processing treatments do tend be more conspicuous than Davis's, however, a sometimes weakening factor. “Grimes,” for example, is distinguished by its appealing layers of acoustic guitar but unnecessary accompanying noise competes with and at times overshadows it. (Interestingly, the voiceover's text also appears in “Sash Spelt,” his contribution to Neo Louisa's Cottage Industries 4: Meadow compilation.) And while a charming interweave of kalmia and vibes floats through “Look,” again the smothering electronics that lumber and grind like a slow-motion wave throughout are at times intrusive, though the piece ends memorably with a quotation from Stravinsky's Symphony of Wind Instruments.

This isn't to suggest that his handling of electronics is always wanting. “Gobi,” for example, proves a deft integration of multiple elements. Here Semuin weaves Oval flutter and stutter, vibes, strings, and phantom voices into a compelling though still thoroughly abstract whole. Often a simpler approach reaps greater dividends, cases in point “Nudging,” a peaceful setting of flute fluttering and soft tones, and the Taciturn-like “Nacho Karl” with its child-like array of electronic nursery tinkling.

Urayasu, Japan resident Yuichiro Fujimoto recorded his Komorebi follow-up Kinoe at home between 2002-04, a fact not only evidenced by recurring field noises (cars, birds, TV, rain, et cetera) but song titles like “Sunday Music Club” and “Kid Play, Mom Nap.” Yet while its home-made, even raw quality lends the album an intimate and humanizing dimension, it also encourages self-indulgence; does one really need to hear, for example, two minutes of scratching noises in “Without Mabutaki,” presumably the sound of someone sketching in broad areas with a pencil or crayons? Like Province, Kinoe's sound palette generally restricts itself to natural sounds—harmonica, acoustic guitar, organ, piano, glockenspiel, kalimba—with only an occasional application of electronics (the soft electronic skitter that underlays a stumbling dialogue of plinks and plunks in “Afterrain,” for example, and electronic whirrs that hover behind ruminative Rhodes and organ meanderings in “An Octave of Shells”).

Fujimoto's pieces are less songs than meditative snapshots; following an uncharacteristically romping intro, “Morning Dance,” for example, settles into a placid setting of field noises, intermittently punctuated by colourations of acoustic guitar and accordion. Similarly, “Drawing of Stars” presents a minimal drone setting of tinkles and guitar flicker spurred by a recurring pulse and cushioned by a wave of hiss that incrementally swells until it almost swallows the other elements. Kinoe also occasionally court a willfully basic feel that will charm some listeners but perhaps repel others. The awkward rhythms of the Takemura-like vibes patterns in “Kid Play, Mom Nap” sound like the work of a hesitant amateur, for instance, while the weave of glockenspiels and simple percussion rhythms in the fragmentary interlude “Sunday Music Club” might be a bit too simple for some. Even so, there's no denying that Fujimoto's album, like Semuin's, shows affection for the small gesture, a gesture he convincingly translates into evocative settings of exotic minimalism.

May 2005