Akira Kosemura would be a familiar name to those who love exquisite piano based music. He has released on the likes of Someone Good and his on label Schole which is also has been home to the likes of Haruka Nakamura, Flica, Ghost and Tape and others. Such is the popularity that Kosemura has gained over the years with his exceptional music that he has some 473,000 Soundcloud and over 357,000 monthly Spotify listeners. This particular album was released on vinyl, CD+DVD and on the Schole/ 1631 Recordings labels.
The press release states: “Treasuring a serene feeling and an intimate conversation with oneself.” is the main concept of his new work, which recalls a vivid emotions, as music goes into one’s body and feels a blood flow deep into a heart. As indicated in the title, an entire album is filled with an obscure darkness and a world of misty sounds never to be feared of, like a comfortable quietness in the dark where a child in the womb is hearing mother’s heartbeat. As the music goes on, it gradually begin to widen an introspective worldview. The combined sounds of repeated phrases as seen in minimal music method, a sophisticated crossover sound in between acoustics and electronics, and an improvisational solo piano will present the worldview suggestive of a broad theme, such as a circulation of life or the law of nature.”
The album feels like an album within an album within an album. There are many styles and territories that Kosemura covers from solo minimalist piano to Sci-fi Synth explorations to Ambient detours to Haunting Modern Classical with occasional bleeding of these styles within tracks. Naturally the standout ones are the solo piano which shows Kosemura at the top of his field and if you’ve been following the artists covered in this blog in the same field (Stefano Guzzetti, Roberto Attanasio, Lorenzo Masotto, Dominique Charpentier, etc…), there is a lot of talented musicians/composers out there.
The album opens with “DNA” a meditative piece combining delicate lighter keys played with restraint under which more strident repetitive playing that has a hypnotic feel. Accompanying this is the sound of what appears to be sonar blips, low-level drones, bells and the natural sound of the piano from the keys and hammers which gives the track an organic and natural feel. The track makes a statement for the pieces to come with its variation and use of mixed elements.
This is followed by “Resonance” that continues in the natural recording style of the piano, presumably down to the placement of microphones to pick up the nuances of the instrument. It’s quite an intimate piece with an almost sing songy flow to it. Due to its short two-minute nature it comes across as an interlude or a bridge track.
“Between the Trees” follows the recording techniques set out before, but the sound has a bit more urgency in it. The playing is more intense with the piece feeling a need to convey or communicate with the listener, to get their attention. The track starts with ominous bass notes that make a return mid track, but make way for more melodic notes with a glacial haze to them. You can easily see this type of track in a soundtrack situation with its repeating theme coming full circle.
“Sphere” is where Kosemura goes interstellar with a Synth track that oscillates, has a jazzy lightly flowing section where you feel that his fingers are barely touching the keys as he floats over them. The contrast in the piece is the Synth oscillating loops are at odds with the seemingly improvises jazzy section. An ice-cold slice of ambience joins in bringing to this fore a hammering section of Synth that fully fits the interstellar vibe with its definite Sci-fi Synth prog feel.
“Kaleidoscope of Happiness” returns to the themes set our previous with the piano driven tracks. Feeling like a relative of “Resonance” you can see why Kosemura has done soundtrack work before as his compositions are a perfect accompaniment for visuals. There is a light feeling of remorse with the track, but not over the top melancholy as there is hope in the second section.
“Inside River #1” and “Inside River #2” are cut from the same cloth, but there are variations within them. The tones of the tracks are slightly different with “Inside River #2” at times feeling a bit muted in sound, but also a bit more intense. This could simply be down to the recording or also Kosemura’s playing.
“Shadows” picks up the speed in playing with the hammers jostling in the sound mix. The track is a mix of high and lower notes with the lower notes being subtle in the mix. When the track enters the final minute you see the intensity and volume peak as Kosemura brings the track to the precipice and stops just before it falls of the cliff.
“Dedicated to Laura Palmer” is a static drenched hazy ambient Synth exploration. There are beds of loops that float in and out, layers of Synth pulses, what sounds like treated electric guitar, glacial tones and hints of the theme music to the TV show by Angelo Badalamenti. The track is a mixture of 70’s ambience with a retro/futurist feel.
“Moving” is a bright hope filled track that uses its lower tones in an ambient fashion with what sound like crickets chirping in the distance. The playing has an intensity that fits the feel of the piece in that it is neither to slow or too fast. At under a minute this is a nice vignette.
“Snowy Sky” is full of field recordings of what sounds like rope scraping across wood like on a boat where the rope is being tightened. Half of the sound palate comes from this and accompanying piano sounds, while the rest comes from the actual piano keys which are melodic and have while comfortingly familiar offer a different feel and mood to that of the previous tracks. Going back to previous tracks on the album I can’t say its reminiscent of others which is a positive thing.
“Spark” opens with an ambient slice alongside minimalist piano with percussive chimes that vaguely bring back the sonar sound of “DNA”. The piano while central to the piece is not the core instrument as the chimes and the ambience make up equal sound to the track. A meditative piece on repetition could with the relaxed nature a reference to the meditative practice of thinking about situations and going over things in your mind which would link up with the album’s theme of “Treasuring a serene feeling and an intimate conversation with oneself.”
“Innocence” has Kosemura hammering keys building up opposing sections of the faster lower keys with the spaced out minimalist higher keys creating that juxtaposition of sound and intensity. It brings two opposing styles to bring about different textures and moods. With a track titled “Innocence” I would have expected a more subdued relaxed and ambient-esque track, but I guess the purity is in the spaced out keys.
“The Cycle of Nature” sees Kosemura at his most intense with the fast repeating phrasing joined by what could be water, but is more certainly the hammers and pedals of the piano, a wash of (natural) ambience enters in bringing together another movement which features electronic keys that shimmer across another layer of piano bringing around four layers of keys together. Everything drops out for a brief section bringing it back to the beginning and erupting again with a massive Synth burst of ambience that hovers over everything before the track delightfully fades to silence.
“Stillness of the Holy Place” is the albums epic track clocking in just under ten minutes in length and has a more studio controlled recording where the only thing you hear is the keys and not so much the other elements of the piano (they are there, just not so pronounced) . By having this type of recording the track comes across grandly. There is a sense of control of the piece where you feel that there is a narrative at play. Half way through the track other piano elements come into the sound more clearly. There are several movements with in the track where the intensity shifts from almost calm to more strident, from more meditative to freeform, etc… I personally am not sure what the narrative is and for me the shorter tracks work better than this long one.
“In the Dark Woods” bringing the Modern Classical side into play. Layers of complimenting violin, viola, contrabass and cello cross over each other filling up with sound that is epic in scale and rich with emotion, melancholy and sweeping gestures. Slowly the layering builds up with intensity rising in a way filling up the sound and making the surroundings shrink which is what I presume the title is referring to.
“Letter from a Distance” brings the album to the end where Kosemura returns to the delicateness of solo piano that he has demonstrated throughout the album. After going epic on the second and third last tracks, we see the sublime playing lead out as if over the final credits of a movie, book ending the album and reinforcing the mastery of delicate, subtle, emotional piano pieces in the of Kosemura.
Throughout the album Kosemura has demonstrated why he has such a following. For some a strictly solo piano album could be too much of a same thing, but for Kosemura he knows how to construct an album that can sound familiar but you look back to the other tracks you cannot pin point which track it is. Naturally with a genre like Modern Classical /Solo piano that is fast becoming a saturated one, it helps to be a great composer and this is what Kosemura has on his side. Add to the fact that Kosemura doesn’t just rely on Piano and you have an artist that sustains the listeners interest and keeps them engaged.