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Chihei Hatakeyama's ambient crackle continues its eternal ebb and flow, with recent effort Too Much Sadness fading into the even more recent Mist. Hatakeyama's music has strong conceptual bonds, and this record is no different, trying to replicate fog, and transpose it for a different sense: hearing. His trademark drone is complemented by the most naturalistic of found sounds: birds chirping and other totally beautiful things.


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  • Mist by Chihei Hatakeyama

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Mist by Chihei Hatakeyama
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9/10 Robin Staff review, 20 January 2015

Chihei Hatakeyama is fascinated by physical illusion. Last November he released ‘Too Much Sadness’, a record expressing the overwhelming emotions wrought by the 2011 Fukushima earthquake; the music, made by playing a crackling old record from Hatakeyama’s collection and sampling it, was transformed by dust -- “it occurred to me that the sound of dust might actually be the sonic form of time”. The record was a friendly storm: thanks to that dust, a constant torrent of noise and crackle droned over the music Hatakeyama had curated. It always sounded distant, leaving the listener estranged, as it feels when you listen to a shabby record in your parents’ collection, or hear your voice on a cassette ten years later. Listening to ‘Too Much Sadness’ felt like intruding on the past. When vinyl crackles, we hear ghosts.

‘Mist’ is another record about our paranormal musical experiences. It’s dedicated, in Hatakeyama’s words, to the “beauty of fog”. This is easy work, considering who we’re talking about: Hatakeyama’s synth and orchestral drones have always sounded aggressively wintery, like obscured whispers of the wind. With ‘Mist’, he offers only subtle glimpse of himself, thrumming piano so that you can hear the notes slinking into place, like Grouper balladeering on ‘Ruins’. The rest of the record is made up of sustained layers of drone -- which represent those uncanny sounds of fog we think we see -- and the surroundings they envelop. Hatakeyama is not a particularly innovative field recordings artist, merely taking the sounds of birds chirping and water running, but what he is proficient at is using these natural sounds to reinforce his themes. The transitions between these upfront, almost harsh recordings and the transcendent drone in the backdrop is astounding, both feeling distinctly mastered, as if the fog has come in and covered over the whole wide world.

While Hatakeyama’s small, looping piano flourishes on this record remain very much place-setters, they give ‘Mist’ a certain personal integrity; as per Grouper on ‘Ruins’, this work offers comfort in a cold place, as if Hatakeyama is watching the mist enrapture mountains from the comfort of his own home. Without any of his traditional seething melancholy, he’s managed to craft a record that sounds relaxed, easing and at peace with the barren landscape.


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