Kazumasa Hashimoto - Yupi [Plop - 2003]This is starting to look like an ongoing serie of reviews that have written “Nature” all over them. And once more, this is top-notch material...
Because yeah, in the last couple of months, there have been reviews of Minamo (“a springtime walk in the countryside” – review here), Davide Balula (“an album on life in the countryside” – here) and Fonica (“Birds are singing in the trees. Down in the village, some dogs are barking. It rains once more, there is a rainbow in the sky, right over the valley.” – here). And Yupi seems to be my fourth instalment...
There is actually another things linking those reviews (well, it doesn’t concern the Balula’one): Minamo, Fonica and Hashimoto are all Japanese. Minamo’s guitarist is in Fonica too, Fonica shares Japanese label with Hashimoto. All of that label’s (Plop) artworks are designed by Cheason, Fonica’s other half. Surely there is some kind of nature friends sect going on in Tokyo???
Nah, more seriously... Some stupid French heathen/pagan/Gaul told me six months ago that Japanese people hated nature (he even said “zere r no bear any more in Japan...”) Ahahahahahahahahahah!!!!! Sarcastic laughs from me... It is always impressive how some people should just shut up but open it because they think they are brighter than the sun. Well anyway, all this to say that when you listen to the 3 aforementioned CD’s, you hear that there seems to be an intimate bond between those musicians and nature. But when it was more something that you felt was hidden behind the music, something that wasn’t that obvious on Fonica’s and Minamo’s CD’s, it takes much more room on Yupi. From the flowers on the cover to the multiple samples to the music as a whole... Pastoral vignettes.
Kazumasa Hashimoto started playing piano in his childhood and he studied composition at the Tokyo College of Music. Session musician, he is also a mastering engineer. The man has some quality background and Yupi is his first solo album.
14 tracks. 9 long ones and 5 interludes. Piano as the main instrument. But not only... Cello, violin, flute, guitars, drums. As Ekkehard Ehlers (but not with the same result - review here), the basic pieces he recorded are then worked on via his computer, adding little effects here and there, some samples,... Coming back often is the sound of birds singing. Hashimoto doesn’t use that sound as a gimmick, as an illustration... He considers it as another instrument. In this, Yupi is the work of a man that is both a musician and a sound engineer: nothing is left unchecked, the whole work is very rigorous.
However, this rigor doesn’t shut the freedom of the music up. Yupi could be described as a restrained hedonistic (I know, those words ain’t meant to go together – that’s the trick) celebration of nature. At times, it really reminds me of Spirited Away, Hayao Miyazaki’s great anime, a superb evocation of Japanese legends, freedom, childhood, a world where both good and evil co-exist and are not opposed, a work full of wisdom. On this album, Kazumasa Hashimoto reminds me of Joe Hisaishi’s original soundtrack for the film. But Yupi has something more: the power of the images without the images.François Monti