Japanese musician Chihei Hatakeyama has been a constant presence in the ambient drone scene since the appearance of his first album “Minima Moralia” in 2006. His new work “Winter Storm” eschews the evocatively interwoven location field recordings that characterised classic albums such as “A Long Journey” and “Saunter”, instead focusing on lush atmospheric chords. In many ways this results in music that seems more focused, more refined, as if over the years Hatakeyama had been stripping back his approach until only what he felt was essential remained.
As is frequently the case with ambient music, the apparent stillness of the four tracks that comprise “Winter Storm” is underpinned by constant motion. It’s in the harmonic development of the music, which unfolds chord after slowly turning chord, that this travel occurs. There’s a subtle and nuanced sense of articulation, as if Hatakeyama’s chords didn’t just have time, but also seasons, spinning and tilting on their own axis as they orbit. Circles within circles. Images appear, but from a distance, as in a memory or photograph.
“Winter Storm” is long, perhaps a little too long given that the tracks are fairly similar, but Hatakeyama isn’t in a rush to move onto the next new thing. The thought and craft that he puts into his music have been developed over several years, and this experience is audible. The experience of being transported to another place, one that is far away but nonetheless very real and concrete, is just as strong on this release as on albums that incorporate clearly distinguishable field recordings; the sense of getting lost, of deliberately choosing to let go of bearings, now seems directed inwards.
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