Liam J Hennessy: Held
We've typically encountered [.que] on Schole, but based on the evidence at hand Sound In Silence would seem to be just as comfortable a fit for Nao Kakimoto's music as Akira Kosemura's imprint. Issued in a 200-copy, hand-numbered edition, Kakimoto's eighth [.que] full-length makes good on its title's promise. Though he's a prolific artist who since 2010 has released three singles and an EP in addition to the albums, Wonderland's ten tracks show no drop-off in quality from what's come before. The Tokyo-based multi-instrumentalist specializes in a very uplifting brand of pastoral electronica that warms the surgical whirr-and-click of electronic production methods with acoustic instrumentation and the splendour of the natural world (see the aptly titled “Nostalgia” for a particularly good example of the [.que] sound).
Swathed in the haze of an outdoors field recording, pretty piano melodies emerge during the opening “Quiet” to reacquaint us with the style we've come to associate with [.que]. A more rhythmic side moves to the fore during “Faraway,” which sees Kakimoto animating chiming electric guitar patterns and a plethora of keyboard textures, electric piano among them, with a crisp beat pattern. Whereas “Drip” offers a particularly dense exercise in classic electronica, the far less hermetic “Forest” sweetens its simple acoustic piano playing with melodious bird chirping. Elsewhere, transporting meditations and sultry post-rock-inflected beat workouts effectively draw the listener into Kakimoto's universe. Wonderland apparently originated out of the soundtrack he composed in 2015 for the short film Kurokawa Wonderland, but the album title could serve as a general term for [.que] music in toto. While admittedly the thirty-six-minute set doesn't push the project in radical new directions, it will surely satisfy those won over by Kakimoto's previous output.
Issued concurrently with Wonderland and in a similar 200-copy run, Held is the debut release under his birth name from London, UK-based Liam J Hennessy (earlier recordings appeared under the Drops alias). Throughout 2016, he embarked on a project that involved writing and recording one song per month, six of which ultimately were chosen for Held, two of them respective collaborations with Good Weather For An Airstrike (Tom Honey) and Umber (Alex Steward). The EP features swooning post-rock rich in melody, guitar and synthesizer textures, field recordings, and found sounds; in fact, the latter functioned as the basis for the tracks, while the field recordings were manipulated to create the beats. Ample applications of reverb and other effects imbue the material with a wide-screen character that nicely complements the strong melodic flavour of the compositions.Sparked by melancholy guitar melodies, the dramatic overture “Frozen Lights” achieves a panoramic effect despite being a mere three minutes in length. The Good Weather For An Airstrike collab “Beacons” shimmers beatifically, its plaintive electric guitar figure appealingly augmented by acoustic guitar and a thick blanket of ambient haze. As strong, the Umber-Hennessy production “Mirror Lake” is a kinetic post-rock-and-ambient hybrid whose intense forward motion evokes a rapid hike along a country trail. Though short at twenty-one minutes, the EP nevertheless leaves a strong and pleasing aftertaste that bodes well for future instantiations of the project, and the press release claim that Held should appeal to fans of artists like Helios, Message To Bears, and Balmorhea turns out to be, in this case, accurate.