Review: Chihei Hatakeyama – Norma

It may not announce itself through percussion or explicitly recurrent motif, but there is rhythm within Chihei Hatakeyama’s work, and it’s about ten minutes into “Benetnasch” that I find myself sinking into it. Taken second by second, the track is fluid and constantly changing – hums of tone rub delicately against one another, seeping out soft vapours of overtone, blurring together the various instruments into a billowing gaseous mass. But persistent listening unveils the music’s grander scope; the cascade of pitch and volume that takes Norma up and down, up and down, gifting a gentle current and forward motion to what would otherwise be a placid pool of stasis.

It’s this energy interchange within Hatakeyama’s music that makes it such an intimate companion to sleep or times of deep relaxation. It has its own respiratory cycle, the dynamic of which form grand arcs swooping up and down, while the distant echo of field recordings (ancient singing, the tumbling clang of bells) resound lightly like the ghosts of subconscious memory recast into dreams. Yet while the music lends itself so aptly to states of content, there’s also the slightest air of unease within the implementation of harmony – Hatakeyama outright avoids the absolute symmetry of major key resolve, preferring to set his music ever so slightly off balance by continually cycling the tonal core and harmonic over-layers. Personally, I see it as one of the music’s key strengths, as it’s through this that Norma evades sinking into the safety of the ground and submits itself to the wondrous, disorientating expanse of the sky.