Kyo Ichinose: Earthrise 2064
mü-nest / PLOP

Taking its inspiration from a quote by English poet William Blake (“And we are put on earth a little space / That we may learn to bear the beams of love,” from “The Little Black Boy”), Kyo Ichinose's fourth album (his second, Lontano, was selected by The Wire as one of 2005's top albums) offers a stylistically wide-ranging portrait of the Japanese composer's talents. The album includes a little bit of everything—piano interludes, vocal lullabies, even elegiac classical settings—and a generous number of certifiably lovely moments. Ichinose brings the album's ten pieces to life by supplementing his own piano, electric piano, glockenspiel, and electronics contributions with the serenading vocals of Tomoko Kanda and classical violin playing of Wakako Hanada.

In “Cadetude#1,” a rising vocal melody made up of solfège syllables inaugurates the album on a pretty and serenading note (just as it again will do so when “Cadetude#2” brings it to a close). That lullaby mood continues over into the subsequent track, “Before the Rain,” where synthesizer and glockenspiel melodies rise and fall entrancingly in a manner that suggests clouds lazily drifting across the sky before the deluge eventually strikes. Certain pieces stand out as being the album's major tracks: the mournful orchestral setting “Longings and Gravity,” for example (the orchestra presumably simulated by Ichinose using ambient electronics), whose emotional gravitas is deepened by Hanada's violin playing, plus the title track, which softly sparkles for a soothing ten minutes as angelic vocals and hazy electronics meld together to form a placid oasis. In keeping with the titular setting, “Big Sur” is characterized by a panoramic sweep in its distribution of electronic-orchestral flourishes, and “Si,” a meditative, piano-based ambient setting features Kanda chanting the title at a single pitch throughout. Earthrise 2064 is rounded out by a couple of pretty piano interludes, “Theme of “Yuragi”,” which is so blurry it sounds like it was recorded underwater, and “Passing at Noon,” which exudes a subtly soulful edge. There's a rather fuzzy concept driving the project that involves the earth being viewed from outer space and experienced as something integrating past, present, and future into something holistic in nature, but the listener can regard the concept as somewhat of a midwife for the composer's satisfying creative ventures.

March 2011