Yoshinori Takezawa: Dream Line

Describing Yoshinori Takezawa's debut album as prototypical Schole could be taken as a slight or criticism in suggesting that it lazily perpetuates a style established by previous label releases. But in this case the word prototypical isn't intended negatively but rather to clarify that Dream Line carries on the laudable Schole tradition of bringing uplifting and harmonious music into the world. It would be hard to imagine anyone coming away from the forty-nine-minute album feeling anything but buoyed by its rich, melodious spirit.

The opening song “Licht” encapsulates the range of Takezawa's music in a single setting. Initially a wonderland of pastoral splendour, the piece eventually exits on a wave of breakbeats, with flutes, glockenspiels, acoustic guitars, and Moeko Suzuki's hushed female vocals along for the ride. Electronics and programming are as integral to Takezawa's songs as are the natural sounds of piano, acoustic guitar, glockenspiel, and vocals. A small number of guests also help out on what's otherwise a solo project. Janis Crunch, her vocal gifts so effectively documented on her 12 & 1 Kitchen. collaboration with Haruka Nakamura, enriches Takezawa's hypnotic reverie “Polaris” with her immediately identifiable voice. A lustrous, string-laden serenade, “Estrella” is elevated by the interplay between Takezawa's flutes and the soprano saxophone playing of Araki Shin, and the acoustic guitar playing of paniyolo (Muneki Takasaka) lends the two songs on which he appears added distinction (“Estrella” and “Audio Leaf”).

One thing that does separate his album from others in the Schole catalog is that his songs often eschew a stripped-down approach for one that's considerably more elaborate and multi-tiered; there are also moments when he pursues a bolder sound not typically heard on a Schole release. “Ray,” for instance, pulls his music into a glitchier electronica realm that's obviously more experimental than the Schole norm, while “Sorane” explores a funkier side. Such pieces are credible enough, but they're also less endearing than serenades like “Spring Voice,” of which there are thankfully many. What recommends the album most, however, is Takezawa's obvious songwriting and melodic gifts. Nowhere is that more evident than during the stately, piano-based setting “Corriente” and entrancing “Utau.” Such pieces repeatedly elevate this strong debut collection and make it an easy one to recommend.

April 2012