Takashi Wada: Meguro

In spite of his incredible legacy, there was one project Alfred Hitchcock dreamed of doing but which remained unfulfilled: a film that would encompass “twenty-four-hours in the life of a city,” as he described it in his infamous conversations with François Truffaut. Whether or not wunderkind Takashi Wada knew of the director's idea, he's produced a credible musical equivalent to it. His solo debut, the stylistically rich Meguro, begins at 3 am and ends at sunset, with the intervening hours spent taking in a city's architecture, light reflections, fluctuating weather conditions, and landscapes. It's an impressive work by Wada who was born in Fukushima, Japan just twenty-one years ago and now studies music at a Paris university.

Wada's compositions are through-composed pieces that eschew soloing and favour rich arrangements with all manner of instrumentation featured throughout. Sounds of insects and lush washes convey a sleeping city at the outset, but the sitar-like glistens, skipping beat, and bright vocals of “Morning View” show the city arising. At times, the feel is laid-back and reflective (the acoustic bass and skipping beats in “110th August,” fluid washes suggesting glistening reflections in “Lights and Water”); at others, it's uptempo, and reminiscent of Cologne techno (the subtle, soft shimmer of “6pm Cityscape”) and Kompakt-styled shuffle (“19°C”). Perhaps the strongest Kompakt influence is its ambient style, as a delicate and becalmed track like “Sunset,” for example, would fit comfortably on one of the label's Pop Ambient collections. There are even nods to traditional jazz (the acoustic bass, piano, and drum brushes of “Night View”) and Pat Metheny-styled jazz fusion—the propulsive beat, acoustic bass, and soaring melodies in “28°C” are trademark Metheny. Fittingly, “Modern Architecture” exudes a constructed aura with its clockwork beats and melodic cross-currents.

The day-long concept imbues the album with a unifying programmatic quality but the album would still succeed in its absence; minus the associations the titles impose, one would still hear it as music free of gloom and cynicism and in its place joy and peaceful contentment. There's an innocent, even slightly naïve, quality that aligns the recording with the music of Nobukazu Takemura in its child-like qualities (for instance, the Gameboy-like tones that appear in the beginning of “Night View”); in addition, both artists are multi-talented instrumentalists and work with admirable ease in a multitude of styles. Meguro impresses as a stylistically rich debut.

August 2004