Some of you may have noticed that we have spent the last few weeks caught in a whirlpool of Japanese ambient and minimal composition, perhaps driven by a subconscious impulse to find refuge from nasty reality.
Many of these records have natural or organic themes, which could well reflect the artists’ own search for spaces of serenity amidst the hyper-accelerated lanes of late-era capitalism. Today we bring you a selection of tracks with that vibe, hope that you find them as soothingly beautiful as we do, and also that when we get together this time next week we don’t have any more reasons to want to escape reality.
We cross our fingers, hard.
We start with Hiroshi Yoshimura’s Flora (1987, reissued in 2006). We already featured Yoshimura a few weeks ago, a propos of his Pier & Loft Tape. While the tracks there had the blue mood of a melancholy playboy smoking cigarettes at the marina, Flora is all about the green (well there is actually another Yoshimura album called Green, but we’ll tell you about that some other time).
Flora is a paradox: it is an artificial replica of nature created by a masterful sound designer and composer. Its synths soar like childhood sketches of Popol Vuh, its melodies ebb, twist and flow like forest paths created by furtive furries , or secret streams hosting impossible dragonflies. It contains moments of sheer pristine perfection when rays of light reach for us through the trees like the fingers of a purifying spirit, to scrub away the grime of existence.
If humanity has a Fallout moment, and we have to retreat into underground vaults, we will play Flora to the children who grow up there, to show them the wonders that existed before we fucked up.
Then comes Yutaka Hirose’s Soundscape 2: Nova. As usual, what little information about the artist/record there is comes from the wonderful Listen to This blog (who everyone should follow). There, we find out that Nova was financed (together with another Yoshimura album) by “Misawa Home Corporation for use in their prefabricated houses between 1986 and 1988”.
This is another example of the paradox between the natural and the artificial: birds chirping, water flowing, you can almost feel the branches of the trees rubbing on your shoulders as you ramble through this soundscape. But you are not in the woods, you are in a prefabricated house in one of the most densely populated countries in the world. Hirose’s intricate melodies pick up on the dreamy yearning of that cognitive dissonance, and open Ghibli-esque portals into parallel universes of green quiet, under the paving stones the mulch.
Discogs page for Soundscape 2: Nova.
We conclude today’s triptych of nature with Motohiko Hamase, a jazz bassist whose Notes of Forestry (1988) is a mystery in its origin, but that fits the music just fine. The title track, with its lithe Satie melody and playful assortment of cartoon noises perfectly captures the sense of freedom that we feel when walk out of the road, and into the forest.
With but a step we move from a clear grid of options to a rhizome of possibilities. As the sound of traffic fades away time and space themselves dissolve, and we feel that, if we kept walking, we would step into another country or another era. The forest doesn’t care, it has seen it all, and Motohiko Hamase’s music perhaps soundtrack’s the wry amusement with which it observes us, as we ramble happily through its home.
Discogs page for Notes of Forestry.
This post’s artwork is one of E. McKnight Kauffer’s illustrations for a 1944 edition of Green Mansions by W. H. Hudson. We obtained it from 50Watts.