HB02 : Chihei Hatakeyama : The River

Limited edition CD of 500 copies.
Artwork by Alexander Archer-Todde. Packaged in a digipak. Also available as a digital download.

Released September 2009.

<a href="http://hibernaterecordings.bandcamp.com/album/chihei-hatakeyama-the-river">Jade Green River by hibernate recordings</a>

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Chihei Hatakeyama is a Japanese artist living on the outskirts of Tokyo who produces some of the most beautifully refined and emotive ambient music around. With releases on Kranky, Room 40, Under the Spire, Magic Book Records, Spekk (as Opitope) and now Hibernate Records, he has quickly established a solid and unique footing in the genre. I have followed Chihei’s work since his first full-length release on Kranky in 2006, Minima Moralia, which remains one of my favorite albums to this day. This album is full of dense drones and texture with suggestive melodic phrases intervening at just the right moments.

The River is a step in a different direction, with a strong theme and trajectory from start to finish that becomes all the more apparent when listened to in appreciation of one of Chihei’s influences – the film Apocalypse Now directed by Francis Ford Coppola. “You know why you can never step into the same river twice? …’cause the river is always moving.” A curious quote from this film where the Nung river is the lifeblood for the local population as well as the occupying soldiers, but is also symbolic of the the progression and struggle of humanity against herself and nature.

In his words, Chihei’s productions can be described as “memory-evoking soundscapes” composed  “with various recorded materials of acoustic instruments such as guitars, vibraphone, and piano…played by hand and processed time and time again via laptop.” The River opens with Jade Green River, a track that builds with swaying tones in the higher frequencies, but with relief provided by a reassuring, resolving drone in the lower frequencies. This sets the fluxuating mood for the album. The music ebbs and flows, interspersed with soft, warm moments like light drizzle, to darker, mysterious pieces like a temple in the past. This is an engaging piece of work that satisfies greatly when listened to on headphones, but also provides an introspective atmosphere when listened to at low volume over loud speakers. This is a real gem of a release – a hopeful sign of what we might expect in the future from Chihei and from Hibernate recordings. 

Jordan Sauer (Segue)

Reviews: Fluid Radio Album of the week | Smallfish | Norman Records | Vital Weekly | Silent Ballet | Tokafi | Textura | Drowned in sound