Kazumasa Hashimoto - Strangeness [Noble - 2010]Here’s an album of psyche pop from Kazumasa Hashimoto; ten airy, playful tracks which don’t really reach the heights they might like to.
In terms of instrumentation, Hashimoto utilises a broad palette of colours: guitars, piano, flute, mellotron, tambourine, drums, vocals and some electronic sounds. These are used in very composed, baroque songs; taking some of their cues from sixties psychedelia - although this is in no way a cliched, by-the-numbers psyche pop retread. Parts of “Slow Motion” sound like a marriage between Pinback and Steve Reich; whilst the album closes with a twenty minute piano solo. The breathy vocals are (to my ear) sometimes sung in french, sometimes sung in english - its hard to tell; they’re often multi-tracked to create a choir of sorts, in the process making most of the words unintelligible.
The album is solidly created, but nothing grabs me at any point. It deliberately uses flute and mellotron to signify that its being “dreamy” and “psychedelic”, but there’s never any sense of atmosphere or transportation - just these empty stylistic signifiers. So we’re left with a pretty album that processes along quite royally, but never strikes out onto any interesting ground. Its not truly lush, or enveloping; and its too busy to have any simple beauty. The last, and title, track, “Strangeness”, is the aforementioned twenty minute piano solo; and here, certainly, there is a spaciousness and an unhurried pace. But still, theres nothing technically or melodically interesting for me; its not garishly pretty music, its just “pretty music”…
There are a few vocal processings which are clever and subtle, and “Doppelganger” has a nice melancholy lumber to it; but its still slim pickings for my ear. The music reminds me slightly, of the kind of sounds you might find in the end credits of a fantasy computer game. That same kind of cosy, tempered, emotional beauty; which could be charitably described as “inoffensive”.Martin P