flau is a Japanese label founded back in December 2006. Since then artists such as Part Timer, Orla Wren, Cuushe, Henning Schmeidt, The Boats, Masayoshi Fujita, Radicalfashion and others have seen releases come out on this label. The label, which was described by Timeout Tokyo as “One of the Biggest Name in Really Small Sounds” celebrates their decade of existence a year late thanks to a robbery in 2017. The album “Circles” which features all the artists making Waltz songs, comes out on June 27 on CD and Digital, is their way of celebration.
To quote the label “The waltz was called also a dance to draw circle in Japan. Each artists interpreted the meaning of the Waltz. All artists came from Europe, South America, Australia and Japan. The owner (Yasuhiko Fukuzono aka aus) invited all (Except Frédéric D. Oberland) to Japan and deepened their relationships on the tour. This is also a record of the margin where music is connected. all 11 songs with no nostalgia or sentimental flow, just music and there we feel intimacy that makes us feel love a certain time.”
A Waltz is defined as “dance music written in triple meter often written in 3:4 time. A waltz typically sounds one chord per measure, and the accompaniment style particularly associated with waltz is to play the root of the chord on the first beat, the upper notes on the second and third beat.”
Danny Norbury “Waltz for Nowhere” whose “Light in August” album was re-issued by flau in 2013, pairs piano and cello mixing up the sounds with a traditional sounding waltz piano with the fluid cello playing that Norbury has been noted for. The piano holds the rhythm down while the cello is free to weave emotive notes over it, never being overwrought or melancholic. You can easily picture the music being played in a dance hall with people dressed in their finest clothing.
Kanazu Tomoyuki “Wordwaltz” a multi instrumentalist who released the album “Prater” on flau back in 2010 takes a neo – classical take with this full orchestral sounding track that is full of luscious flowing strings that work their magic over the slow and thoughtful piano that underpins the piece. The sounds are rich and exquisite with the violin reaching great heights and the tones of the predominant instruments – piano, cello and violin all complimenting each other, while inhabiting their own territory.
Ensemble 0 “Soñando 8”, Ensemble 0 is a fluid French band whose lineup changes from release to release dependent on the style of the music. Previously seen on flau in 2015 with the album “Umarete Wa Mita Keredo” the track “Soñando 8” translates to dreaming and unlike the opening tracks, this one uses series of acoustic guitars as its focus. The picked guitars sound becomes entwined with each other as the intensity of the playing increases. Other elements such as using the body of the guitar to form percussion, bells and chimes are welcomed into the music providing a childlike innocence and melody that counters the classical guitar sound.
Fábio Caramuru “5a Valsa Brasileira” , Fábio is a Brazilian pianist who has several flau releases including the album “EcoMúsica” which came out on Flau in 2016. His solo piano piece has a tone that feels like it suits a late night bar scene from the past where people are sipping martini’s and smoking cigarettes. It has this feeling of music that you observe the playing as much as you would listening to it. You can imagine Caramuru’s fingers flowing over the keys with a theatrical flourish.
Otto A. Totland “Granny’s Waltz” is a brief piece from this Sonic Pieces linked artist. The piano has a crystalline type sound as if there was space used in the recording (ie: microphone placements away from the instrument) in the recording process which gives it a feeling of distance. The tone of the piano is somewhat hushed giving a sound that is slightly obscured and shares a dream like or reminiscing quality.
Rayons “Merry-Go-Round” is Masaka Nakai who has had a few releases on flau and whose contribution fuses the classical elements of piano and cello alongside whimsical chimes and bells. The piano playing comes across as light, melodic and playful. The cello that drives through the core of the track lends the track an almost folky quality such is the rich and at times almost weeping tone of the instrument. Overall a new balance of the instruments.
Sophie Hutchings “My Love” if I am correct this is Sophie’s first appearance on flau, having carved out a name for herself via releases on labels such as Preservation, 1631 Recordings and Hobbledehoy Records. Her solo piano piece starts off slowly with minimal lines before building upon the rhythm, increasing the intensity and the feeling in the piece. Judging from the pace you feel that the music is very personal with attention placed on notes that have a certain positivity and explore the emotions conveyed in the title of the piece.
Frédéric D. Oberland “Aurore” Oberland is another (if I am correct) new name to the flau catalog, but is well-known for his work on Gizeh, Facture and Voxxov labels. His contribution is a multi leveled guitar orientated piece has a vast amount of depth and instrumentation including bass guitar, chiming drones, piano and electronics that soar to great heights and stray from the simple waltz formula. The interesting thing is listening to it separately you may not, unless musically trained or very observant be able to classify it as a waltz piece. The way the various instrumentation work together and the levels in sound show a very creative musician that can expand the confines of a waltz.
HAU (Henning Schmeidt + aus) “Anywhere” the relationship between Schmeidt and flau is an ongoing one with six of his seven albums featuring on the label. Such is the closeness of the relationship that Schmeidt and label boss Yasuhiko Fukuzono aka aus have fused their talents together. The track is a mixture of field recordings, chimes, various instruments and piano. The sound feels like it can be both cut and paste of the piano and various instruments, and also a recording that encapsulates the piano and the other sounds. Because of the style while the piano is the focus, there are other elements that surround it and depending on your point of view, either add to it or distract from it. The fact of these additional sounds changes the dynamic of the piece and can open it up to personal interpretation.
Takeo Toyama “Minority”, Toyama has appeared on the Karaoke Kalk label before and his piece “Minority” fits in well with the theme and what you would define as a waltz – for the first half that is. There is a section in the middle of the track that changes the track by going in a fast tumbling fashion, before resuming the waltz style, but different to the beginning. The tone of the track definitely changes with a somewhat sinister sound being noticed, possibly by the piano which has a noticeable reverb attached to it.
MayMay “Long Ago Waltz” who appeared on flau several years ago with “And so I place you in the setting sun” fuses piano, wood percussion and a string instrument that I can’t put my hand on – like Bouzouki, alongside breathy vocals, chimes, electronic percussion, synths and electronics to crate a track that is genre indefinable. The music has all the qualities of the waltz, but flows through classical, drone, folk, folktronica styles to create something that is quite unique and ultimately beautiful, that also stands out on this collection of other fine works.
Having a concept for a release and having artists contribute inspired by that concept can be rather daunting. The fear is that artists would ultimately submit similarly sounding releases. Thankfully this is not the case. Sure, some instrumentation is similar, but each track has its own personality, feel and sound. Each artist has put their own stamp on the music and the variation on the track listing makes for varied listening. Congratulations to flau on their decade of creativity and here’s to the next ten.