Chihei Hatakeyama Mirage

[Room40; 2017]

Styles: clouds, buildings, bodies of water
Others: Tim Hecker, Abzû, Lawrence English

There’s not much to say about Chihei Hatakeyama’s newest album, Mirage. After all, what is there to say about the way a column of water spirals about beneath the surface of the ocean, or the way a street alley reflects the translucent sounds of traffic at night? With his latest release, Hatakeyama set out to document the nature of feeling as it is affected by space, an attempt to replicate the experience of being somewhere as told through sound. Inspired by a trip to Turkey and completed over the course of five years, the album deals in soft, liminal spaces, creating fleeting moments of perception to bask in before the natural human tendency toward movement compels us to seek different views.

Although Hatakeyama’s apparent inspiration for these segments arose from a fascination with architecture, his music’s closest spatial relative has always been water, and that affinity holds true for Mirage. Hatakeyama’s swaths of sound come in full, amorphous volumes, leaving no empty spaces as they roll endlessly back and forth, revealing their depths as easily as they mask them. “Starlight and Black Echo” centers around a drifting synth tone that rises and recedes like a great whale passing underneath the waves, while “In the Quiet River” shimmers like a speckled seascape as viewed from above, swaying with a light, calming repose. There is one break from this melange in the plucked strings of “Distant Steam Train Whistle,” a moment of sudden awareness that cuts away from the rest of Mirage’s misty edges. Even in its alertness, however, the song subsumes with ease, slowly coming into focus before gently departing.

Like its namesake, Mirage is impossible to grasp, its visage nothing more than a soothing representation of what we may seek beyond the horizon. After a time, it is gone, and yet even as one listens to it, a sense of absence is undeniable. Chihei Hatakeyama has tread these waters before and will likely continue to spin his formless shade of ambient music for as long as he is doing what he does. Making words out of such textures is like trying to bottle up the sunset; the more you attempt to hold onto it, the more it slips away.

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