Review: Chihei Hatakeyama – Above The Desert

cover“I recorded this album in the basement studio.”

With this one nugget of context, Above The Desert becomes a record of aspiration and possibility. Hatakeyama is in the basement. The music is his skylight. Light is pouring in but nothing else, promising nothing in particular but sparking the flicker of promise itself. Hatakeyama’s sound has always sought the sensations that reside beyond irrefutable sensory experiences. His melds of electronics and acoustic waves, dislocated from instrumental source, seem to mimic those flickering shapes seen with peripheral vision, or the sounds I hear too faintly to be sure of them. Harmonics roll over the surface of the sound like sunlight gleaming upon rippling waves, eternally sliding into new positions and expanding and appearing. From his basement, he smears together all possible visions of what could reside upstairs, tethered to the other end of the light – half-thoughts and translucent, baseless expectations, paled by doubt and shape-shifting as deeper scrutiny refines the projection of prophecy.

I see “drone” used as a descriptor for Hatakeyama’s music. While there are points at which I can identify the use of prolonged tones (“Scarlet Stone” sounds like a church organ with four or five keys held down, sinking into the depths of a lake), it feels wrong to frame this music with a word that implies stillness or consistency when actually I hear the opposite. The album cover seems to depict sand floating the desert dunes, swooping and circulating at the behest of the wind, illuminating this environmental force for all of its nuance and collisional complexity. Similarly, the sounds within are like a coloured dye introduced to the earthly flux of everything, enlightening the effects of time decay and coincidence and growth and organic movement, intersecting and folding over themselves without rest. I’ve heard several records by Chihei Hatakeyama that feel similar in their premise, and there’s something nice about that; with the composer playing the role of anchor to his own music, I’m able to appreciate the ceaseless fluctuation of his art ever more vividly.