[.que]: Drama

Schole recently issued a fifth-anniversary compilation called Joy, and the same sunlit spirit infuses the new long-player by [.que], the nom de plume adopted by twenty-five-year-old multi-instrumentalist Nao Kakimoto. It's some of the prettiest music I've heard in recent days, but that in no way argues against it. The Osaka-based musician-composer roots his songs in acoustic guitar, piano, and beats, and integrates electronic textures into them in a way that's often so subtle as to be imperceptible (field recordings and hushed female voices surface now and then, too). Exceptions to that rule include “Bud,” where piano playing is accompanied by phasing treatments that are as prominently featured as the piano, and “Paddle,” where electronic beats skitter in way that suggests a river's rapid flow. The point is a minor one, however, when the general result is a sparkling and uplifting sound that's quietly radiant, crystal-clear, and delicate.

In places, the album's sound is luscious, as in “Flora,” which Kakimoto amplifies with a full-bodied arrangement filled with dancing piano patterns, synthetic strings, acoustic guitars, glockenspiel, drums, and wordless vocals (by Unmo). But perhaps the album's prettiest song is one of its most understated: “Rest,” where Kakimoto is joined by fellow Schole artist Paniyolo, who contributes graceful classical and slide guitar playing to the heartwarming piece.

Calling the music folktronica—or, if you prefer, the less derided label pastoral electronica—is a bit misleading as the [.que] sound leans more heavily on the folk-pastoral side of the equation than the electronic, even if a song such as “Comet” does feature aggressive drumming that one presumes was generated by programming than a human being. As regarded by [.que], the natural world is a place of splendour rather than threat, and feelings of despair and alienation are nowhere to be found in pieces like “Sunset” and “Daybreak.” A song such as “Uncertain” also reveals that Kakimoto is more inclined to moods of wistfulness and melancholy than high drama.

July 2013