Yuichiro Fujimoto: Komorebi
Smalltown Supersound

Yuichiro Fujimoto's Komorebi exudes the kind of delicate and meditative qualities a typical Westerner associates with Japan, even if Merzbow and Boredoms prove that not all the country's music is so tranquil. Like the simple, child-like artwork that adorns the CD booklet, the songs on Komorebi are sonic haiku: sparse, uncluttered, minimal—often a single instrument inhabiting a given song (for instance, a slowly plucked acoustic guitar in “Slow Boat” and a xylophone's phase-treated patterns in the wistful lullaby “Little Sunset”). To some degree the recording's relaxed and intimate feel can be explained by the fact that Fujimoto recorded it at home. That ambiance often works to the album's advantage, as when the chatter of children's voices appears amongst the thumb piano-toy glockenspiel duet in “Joy,” yet it can be a liability, too, like when the industrial sounds in “Kujira” and bird noises in “Sometimes” become too distracting.

Pieces often remain vignettes as opposed to fully developed compositions, “Put” and its simple repetitions of piano glimmer a case in point. While there may be a certain appeal to such sketchiness, that unfinished quality can also be less satisfying. In “Kujira,” the amateurish piano playing quickly loses its charm and becomes grating, and nine minutes of thumb piano meanderings (“White Brown”) grows wearisome. To his credit, Fujimoto does effect an interesting rapprochement between traditional and digital sounds in “See Water” (where Ovalesque effects nudge the album into glitchier territory) and “The Book” (with its collage-like integration of congregation folk-chant, field recordings, and plunking piano playing) but, in the end, the album seems too fragmentary. While Komorebi might remind some listeners of Nobukazu Takemura's work, it begs comparison even more to Lullatone's similarly delicate Computer Recital and Little Songs About Raindrops. The latter (recorded by Shawn James Seymour in Japan, incidentally) is especially satisfying as its songs are compositionally polished without losing their innocence in the process. Had Fujimoto applied a similar strategy to the making of Komorebi, the results would invite stronger recommendation.

November 2004