Flowers for Bodysnatchers:
On paper, Aokigahara would appear to promise a particularly depressing listening experience: after all, the title refers to a thirty-five-square-kilometre forest situated at the northwest base of Mount Fuji in Japan and, notorious for the number of self-inflicted deaths that occur within it, has come to be known as the ‘Suicide Forest'; further to that, the recording is graced by pieces with titles such as “A Rope to End it All” and “Prisoner of Night and Fog.” Be that as it may, Duncan Ritchie's Flowers for Bodysnatchers opus is a whole lot less depressing than one might expect; certainly it's one of the more conventionally musical collections Cryo Chamber's issued recently.
Don't get the wrong impression, though: while Aokigahara does possess a more pronounced musical dimension than the average Cryo Chamber release, it also adheres to the dark ambient character promoted by the label. To generate the material, Ritchie spent many hours gathering field recordings during a trip from Tokyo to Aokigahara and then, augmenting them with his elegant piano playing, shaped the sounds into their final form. Piano, field recordings, and atmospheric textures are thus the core elements, the piano patterns so minimal and ambient-styled they invite comparison to Harold Budd and Eno.
“Prisoner of Night and Fog” establishes the template early with plaintive piano playing accompanied by strings and thunderous storm noises, after which “And There is a Darkness” presents a slightly less nerve-fraying nightscape that sprinkles rain dribble with classical piano playing. The mood shifts during “Kuroi Jukai” when a disembodied voice, perhaps an instantiation of the Japanese mythological demons with which the forest has been historically associated, wafts over Ritchie's portentously throbbing base. In keeping with its title, “Night Heroin” is suitably hallucinatory, suggestive of someone experiencing a bad trip in a nightmarish setting, whereas “Aokigahara” alternates between graceful keyboard episodes and haunted soundscaping passages. Though wooden flutes, cawing crows, howling winds, convulsive rumbles, and other creeping noises fill the air, Ritchie's evocative soundtrack does hint at a surprisingly positive resolution when “The Games Foxes Play” caps the recording with an at-times harmonious series of ambient gestures.