Kanazu Tomoyuki: Prater

Seeing as how much of the currently available information for Prater is in Japanese (with which I am regrettably not fluent), any assessment of the release will have to be based solely on the album's thirty-four minutes of material. I can tell you, at least, that, in addition to composing the recording's seven songs, Kanazu Tomoyuki plays flute, piano, organ, saxophone, and mellotron. I can also tell you that the album includes richly arranged settings for ensembles of varying sizes—two pieces feature him alone (on piano and saxophone) while others add guests, including aus's electronics on one song and bass and drum playing by members of asgl chop squad on three others.

Tomoyuki clearly has an ear for melody, as the pretty patterns played by piano and saxophone in “Hanadorobou” prove, and the wistful title piece is, if anything, even prettier in its bucolic blending of flute-like mellotron, acoustic guitar, and strings. After an outdoors field recording and trumpet and saxophone chorale introduce the piece, “April” turns first melancholy during a piano-and-flute episode and finally stately. Seaside sounds imbue “April Torso” with an even stronger feeling of longing than are already provided by the melancholy piano and saxophone themes. A couple of pieces stand out for being so robust in spirit: following an exotic organ-and-congas intro, “Deer Flew by Green” receives the full-band treatment, with a drummer giving the tune a driving, post-rock animation, Max (no last name included) adding singing and a spoken word passage, and Tomoyuki inserting a brief moment of saxophone wail. Ultimately, the tune ends up sounding like a jazz-styled arrangement for mini-ensemble and vocalist more than anything else. The closing piece, “Sakai,” likewise resembles a jazzy, vocal-based piece, in this case one featuring the childlike voice of Cuushe.

During “Riverside Day,” Mujika Easel's vocal sometimes sounds so fragile it feels like it might vanish altogether, and one comes away wishing the song had been presented in a purely instrumental form instead. That's pretty much the only questionable move on this otherwise enjoyable and contrast-filled collection, however. In many a song, Tomoyuki's piano playing forms an elegant core around which the other instruments constellate, and he brings an impressive amount of technique to the material too, as his obvious proficiency as a pianist makes clear.

September 2011