Chihei Hatakeyama – Forgotten Hill

Forgotten Hill is a record about the melting of time. Tokyo’s Chihei Hatakeyama went on a trip through the Asuka region of Japan, which is known for its burial mounds, gigantic Buddhist monuments, and landscapes of subdued beauty. Forgotten Hill is a place of tranquillity, sitting somewhere outside of time. Its blurred sounds echo and resonate. Deep in its caverns, shimmering water-tails of light are reflected. The space is still and quiet, providing vacant spaces for meditation, reflection, and cleansing. The record absorbs time.

In the 6th to 7th Centuries, the Asuka region hosted the capital of Japan, but today it’s described as ‘an unpopular, rice-drenched rural area’. The burial mounds are known as ‘Kofun’, and Hatakeyama found himself drawn to one in particular – the ‘Ishibutai Kofun’, which loosely translates as ‘Stone Stage’. The stone chamber, or tomb, is now exposed. Much like the music on Forgotten Hill, the tomb has unspooled from the world, melting through the gates of time. Where it should be covered in soil, buried long ago, this one, for reasons unknown, is bare. What’s interesting is that, in general, the tone is muddied, as if it was six feet under, but we know this isn’t the case, as some tracks represent the revealed, naked chamber. Time itself is muddy and unfathomable, though, and in that sense, the music is lost within it, the tones emanating as if from a dream state or catatonia, a half-remembered day rising up from slushy waters.

‘It was the spring when I visited there, and yet I was the only person in sight. I have no idea what kind of stories are trapped within this tomb, all those things seen and heard by the rock. When I stood in front of it, I was captured by the feeling that I wanted to get on the stone stage, to be consumed by the burial mound. As I went inside the stone chamber I felt a strong sense of pressure. While getting down the stairs leading to the dark stone chamber, this pressure grew stronger…it was a very particular and strange sensation. I’d always imagined being in the stone chamber would feel like stepping into the past, but somehow the sense of time gradually collapsed. The interior of the stone chamber was like an alien landscape.’

Next up on his journey was the Asuka-Temple. The Great Buddha – the oldest in Japan – is now surrounded by rice fields, as is a former palace, which now lies in ruins. All around the area, there’s a sense of time slipping: the ruins of a once-pristine palace, a place declaring societal import, highlight a region long forgotten. For whatever reason, it slumbers in the wastelands. Decay has sunk its acidic teeth into stone, its majesty erased, even while rice continues to grow around it.Forgotten Hill has something mystical within it, though. Something otherworldly and alien shines through and illuminates upon the stone. In this place, time is eternally paused, and maybe that’s the origin of this strange sensation, a feeling that something is missing, an unsettling void brought on by the absence of time. The human response would be to immediately fill it in, to plug it with something else, but there’s nothing here, and so the music has a naked quality to it.

‘I rode my bicycle through what felt like endless rice fields. It was coming toward night and dusk was becoming heavy. Looking around me, I wondered if this was once a city; if it was, those memories are now buried by the land, by rice fields and mountains, and prefectural roads with sparse traffic lights dotting them’.

There’s a melting of time, and a melting of music. The tracks, although individual, segue in the mind, with no definable points marking one or the other. They coalesce to create feelings of impermanence and slippage, massaging the music until it evokes a lost past, a frozen present, and a future of absence. ‘Cherry blossom petals fall like heavy snow’ and ‘The big stone tomb’ are similar pieces, despite being so far apart (one sits at the beginning and one lies at the tail), and they don’t seem to worry about anything, never seeing the need for stress or caring to go down that road. Things don’t seem so heavy without the pressures of time. Forgotten Hill is music of emptiness that somehow fills the emptiness.

‘It is quite difficult to imagine the prosperity of the former capital looking at a field of nothing’.

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