Hisato Higuchi Dialogue

[Family Vineyard; 2006]

Rating: 3.5/5

Styles: experimental guitar, lo-fi, free improvisation, avant-garde
Others: Bill Frisell, Loren Mazzacane Connors, Keiji Hano, Roy Montgomery

Dialogue, the third release from Japanese guitarist Hisato Higuchi, contains thirteen spare, atmospheric tracks of accessibly experimental guitar music. Glacially paced, but by no means deleteriously so, these melancholic vignettes resonate with a quiet emotional intensity, despite the understated austerity inherent in their delivery. In the current experimental indie environment in which "noise" is the order of the day, Higuchi's simple, hushed pieces, replete as they are with their languidly evocative textures, are a welcome diversion.

An introspective, home-recorded aesthetic persists throughout the entirety of Dialogue. The recording and production of the record have been executed with varying degrees of audio fidelity. The album's opening track, "Himitsu," itself begins with a not inconsiderable amount of audible tape hiss before Higuchi's guitar enters the mix, enveloping the track in a diaphanous, gauzy haze. Though the level of incidental noise on these pieces fluctuates from track to track, they were quite clearly recorded outside of the studio setting, and their unpolished nature suffuses them with a raw, primitive power. There is a certain spontaneity underlying these pieces that suggests that they were the end result of bursts of thought or creative energy that have been committed to tape. Often these tracks begin on an arbitrary note, or end at what most would consider to be a non-logical stopping point.

Dialogue shows Hisato Higuchi exercising a substantial degree of restraint, both in terms of composition and technique. The tones themselves are confined to the middle ranges. Plectrum noise is kept to a minimum, and there is very little in the way of higher-end treble to be found here. Even the feedback, when it is present, seems muted, and there is certainly an audible dearth of bass on the album. Dialogue's tracks vary from blues-derived pieces to moody, minor-key arpeggios. Higuchi's wordless vocals, delivered in a manner that falls somewhere between a whisper and a moan, infuse the tracks with the air of the spiritual, even meditative in some instances. Indeed a Zen-like subtlety persists throughout the proceedings. "Manazashi No Saki E," with its gentle vocals, serene yet alluring melody, and bluesy, expressive string bends, is perhaps the most refined and impressively executed piece on Dialogue.

Higuchi does demonstrate, despite the subdued nature of these pieces, that he is occasionally capable of giving into his aggressive tendencies and rocking out a little. The numbered pieces simply entitled "Guitar" ("Guitar # 3" in particular) are without a doubt the most energetic and expressive of the recordings on Dialogue. These instrumentals are more closely related to the classic blues idiom than are the rest of the album's tracks. Higuchi's tone, distortion, and faux-sloppy execution invoke some of Neil Young's more intense and experimental work with Crazy Horse, as well as some of the more low-key work of Keiji Haino. These "Guitar" pieces break up the album's listlessness, affording the record an additional measure of heterogeneity.

By and large, the album's muted textures call to mind a dwelling filled with empty, sepia-toned rooms where restless ghosts linger. There exists an undeniably visual quality to Dialogue that is in keeping with Hisato Higuchi's background in performance art. Autumnal and restrained, the record is an immensely appropriate companion to the early fall, when the shadows become longer, skies grayer, and life in general begins to wind down.

1. Himitsu
2. Guitar # 4
3. Manazashi No Saki E
4. Watashi Wa Asa O Matteita
5. Guitar # 2
6. Hajimari No Bamen
7. Guitar # 5
8. Ai No Tanjo
9. Kizuato
10. Breath # 2
11. Guitar # 3
12. Mitsumeau Sekai Ni
13. Borei No Ude

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