Charles Rendition, Shunichiro Fujimoto's second Fjordne album on the Kitchen. label (and his fourth full-length overall), represents quite a departure from its predecessor, 2009's The Setting Sun. That's not so much because the new release takes its inspiration, at least in part, from Charles Dickens' 1861 novel Great Expectations (evidenced, if tangentially, by the brief short story Fujimoto includes with the CD release), but more because the style of the material is closer in spirit to ‘60s-styled piano trio jazz than his previous recordings. Aspects of decay and decadence pervade the Dickens novel, of course, most clearly seen in the ruined home inhabited by the wealthy spinster Miss Havisham, and so too do they form a part of Charles Rendition's sonic fabric. The pairing of piano with typewriter and pencil sounds in the closing “Hazel,” for example, renders the project's musical-literary dimension overt.
The second track, “Gathering,” brings the album's style fully into focus: elegant, jazz-flavoured piano playing sometimes backed by warm horns and understated rhythm accompaniment, and the total sound often rendered denser through the addition of electronic textures and field recordings. The penultimate piece, “Antidotal,” is likewise representative of the album's style, with elegiac piano playing and horns forming a thick wall of sound that's accompanied by a hazy mix of footsteps, speaking voices, singing, and nature sounds. Fujimoto's piano playing, which is typically lyrical and often introspective (as illustrated by the ruminative “Constellation”) is reminiscent of figures such as Bill Evans and Keith Jarrett. Elsewhere, a dusty character pervades “Awakening” when its languorous horn chords intone against a slow-motion backdrop of quasi-hip-hop beats and decaying vinyl samples, and the jazz ballad “Hope” initially soothes, in large part due to the presence of Fuyu's soft voice, but gradually splinters during its second half into somewhat of a free jazz exercise. A slow blues (“Forfeiture”) also sneaks its way onto the album.
Sonically, the material proves arresting, with Shunichiro using his laptop to wrap the acoustic music elements within a thicket of textures, as is the presentation, with Kitchen. giving the CD release (700 copies) the deluxe treatment: inside the customized seven-inch LP-sized edition are two fold-out inserts displaying enigmatic illustrations, photos, and text. There's generally a level of care and commitment to craft that sets Kitchen. releases apart from the competition, and this Fjordne release is no exception.