Hakobune & Dirk Serries: Obscured by Beams of Sorrow
White Paddy Mountain

Chihei Hatakeyama: Five Dreams
White Paddy Mountain

Concurrently released with Dirk Serries' first-ever collaborative recording with Hakobune (Tokyo-based Takahiro Yorifuji) is Obscure Fluctuations (Trost), the Belgian guitarist's fiery outing with tenor saxophonist John Dikeman and English drummer Steve Noble. It would be hard to imagine two more contrasting releases, with the blistering improvisations of the trio set galaxies removed from the serene soundscaping of Obscured by Beams of Sorrow. Such dramatically different projects suggest that calling Serries an adaptable musician is about as big an understatement as could be made.

The common ground shared by the guitarists on this fifty-two-minute outing, whose music is credited equally to Hakobune and Serries (the album mixed by the former and mastered by the latter), is ambient dronescaping of a particularly crystalline and celestial kind. Guitar phrases and washes waft slowly through four long-form settings marked by calm and stillness, their free-floating spirit reinforced by their delicate character. It's very much familiar territory for Yorifuji, one with which he's clearly comfortable, yet Serries appears to be in his natural element, too, considering how seamlessly their sensibilities and playing blend.

In fact, the guitarists' respective styles dovetail so completely on the release, Obscured by Beams of Sorrow could easily pass for a solo release by either artist. Though one piece is titled “Harrowing Surface,” there's little here that'll set anyone's psyche on edge; the recording's character is better captured by a title such as “The Slow Movement of Thought” in the way the duo's atmospheric music distills the meandering drift of consciousness into aural form. Fans of Hakobune's work in general and Serries' minimalistic solo outings should find the meditative slow-burn of Obscured by Beams of Sorrow very much to their liking.

Chihei Hatakeyama not only manages White Paddy Mountain but uses it as an outlet for his own releases, a prime example of which is Five Dreams. While a steady stream of new material by the sound artist is released with almost clockwork regularity, his new fifty-seven-minute collection actually has a history stretching back many years, with foundational sound files for its five pieces having been recorded on a single day in 2008; further to that, one of the settings, “July,” was uploaded to YouTube a year later, albeit in a shortened version due to the maximum time limit then in place. As “July” implies, Five Dreams is comprised of settings whose titles identify the month when a particular dream occurred and which inspired the resultant musical piece in question.

It's not uncommon for Hatakeyama to sculpt his soundscapes using electric guitars, vibraphone, and piano, though it can be a challenge to identify a particular track's sound-generating sources once the material has been processed into a gauzy blur. Sometimes, however, an instrument sound clearly asserts its presence, as occurs during “April,” where sparse, single-line piano phrases placidly intone amidst the willowy haze, and in “February,” which assumes a somewhat gamelan character when metallic vibes patterns accent the atmospheric guitar shadings. Elsewhere, “July” whistles softly as it freely floats, suspended high above the earth, and “May” delves into a glassy, guitar-drenched cathedral to bring the disc to a reflective close. Though the release dates for Obscured by Beams of Sorrow and Five Dreams are separated by a month, they're obviously companion releases, given their shared focus on soothing ambient sounds.

November 2015