Takagi Masakatsu Journal for People

[Carpark; 2006]

Rating: 3.5/5

Styles: ambient electronica with a modern compositional bent
Others: Murcof, Ryuichi Sakamoto, To Roccoco Rot, Barbara Morgenstern

The piano line tilts towards the cascading, the triumphant, the life-affirming, but as it breathes hope, muddlement creeps into the frame. Pop song electronics brighten and widen the spectrum, while drones fill in the remaining blank spaces. Next Masakatsu heaps sound upon sound, busying the mix by burying truncated choral harmonies and sampled fireworks. As the scene grows more cluttered, chaos seems more imminent, but the composer never allows the piece to plunge into the abyss. He does bring the music (and us) within an inch of incoherence, however — and he has the nerve to call this stunt "Wonderland."

The rest of Journal for People's best material also flirts with dissolution. In "Ketle 3," Masakatsu abandons his typical hyper-melodic approach to the piano in favor of percussive, deconstructive mutterings; an instrument that normally acts as an unfailing bridge between clipped, glitched, and stuttered rhythmic phrases joins here with mischievous accordion and some obscured mouth-blown instrument (Harmonica? Melodica? It's tough to tell) in a Dionysian deconstruction of minimalist repetition. The song sounds like an excerpt from a Terry Riley composition with a bomb strapped to its chest, and it savors every moment of its imminent self-destruction, channeling great intangibles like Reckless Abandon and Interior Vivacity. Meanwhile "Uter 1" defies death less radically but not without its own pleasures. It's an exercise in fractal composition in which extremely brief color blot segments of piano and electronics move with an energy that seeps into the gaps between them and wrings beauty out of disruption.

Sadly, some hard-to-ignore filler interrupts the album's many triumphs. Like so many artificial attempts at evoking nature, "Aqua" wastefully marries environmental sound and instrumental sound without allowing either to enrich the other. "Uter 2" and "Piano" feel half-formed and feature too many dry places, and "Salida Del Sol" and "Light Song" rely too heavily on dull field recordings. To Masakatsu's credit, this effluvia is more prone to induce sleep than headaches; this is not like a Dead C album, where we're forced to stomach endless streams of guitar peddle spew before we reach fleeting moments of transcendence. Journal for People's weak tracks might make us impatient, but they don't send us lunging for the skip button. And since the album is so exceedingly good on so many registers, its faults are easy to excuse.

1. Uter 1
2. J.F.P.
3. Uter 2
4. Piano
5. Ketle 1
6. Ketle 2
7. Ketle 3
8. Wonderful
9. Birdland
10. Aqua
11. Waltz
12. Salida Del Sol
13. Light Song

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