[.que]: Brilliant Hopes

In all likelihood, no sunnier collection of music will be released in 2015 than Brilliant Hopes, the fifth Schole album from Nao Kakimoto under the [.que] alias. Produced by label overseer Akira Kosemura, the fifty-minute recording presents a full, ensemble-styled sound, with multi-instrumentalist Kakimoto (guitars, keyboards, vocals, programming) joined by Affable Noise (electric guitar), Shota Mizuguchi (drums), petitoto (vocals), unmo (vocals), and Kosemura himself on piano.The typical Brilliant Hopes track sees pretty piano and/or acoustic guitar melodies leading the charge, with programming, electronics, and drums fleshing out Kakimoto's harmonious music.

Without wishing to oversimplify the [.que] sound, one could describe Brilliant Hopes as closer in style to post-rock and dreampop than the folktronic tone of the 2013 release drama. But though that might be the case, the new recording opens in true folktronic mode when “Origin” smears dabs of acoustic guitar against a dense, shoegaze-like backdrop of electronic flutter. By comparison, the subsequent song, “Home,” nudges the album in post-rock's direction with Mizuguchi's muscular pulse powering Kakimoto's piano melodies and synthetic sparkle. Quintessential [.que], “Joint” exudes an uplifting spirit in melding Kakimoto's bright electronic scene-painting with Affable Noise's sunkissed guitar lines.

Not surprisingly, Kosemura elevates the songs on which his elegant piano playing appears: during the serenading “Himitsu,” for example, his chiming sound provides an appealing counterpoint to unmo's soft vocalizing, while his fluttering patterns amplify the positive vibe of “Springlike.” To go along with the ensemble-styled pieces, Kakimoto includes a few of a gentler persuasion, such as “Trivial Lie” and “Never End,” heartfelt piano settings whose melancholic character proves affecting, and “Lullaby,” a song whose child-like character is bolstered by petitoto's toy instruments. For the most part resplendent from start to finish, Brilliant Hopes is as solid a portrait of [.que]'s blithe spirit as one might hope to find. It's not so much a radical advance on the sound he's previously established but more a consolidation of his various strengths as a composer, arranger, and instrumentalist.

May 2015