011 Chihei Hatakeyama 'A Long Journey'

Cat.No: home n011
Release date: January 25th, 2010
Edition number: 1000 (digipack)

Buy Now @ Home Normal (Japan)

Release description:
I first met Chihei at the Bellingham Electronic Arts Festival in 2006. Its very fitting really because when I asked him a bit about the background of the album, Chihei described A Long Journey as follows:

‘An essential part of the album are my experiences when I went to Bellingham and San Francisco in 2006. I used field recording material recorded in San Francisco. “A Long Journey” is a metaphor for life, my image of the journey of birth to death.’

Since I was a high-school student I have been interested in the Shinto religion of Japan. Shinto teaches us that everything has a spiritual essence (a ‘Kami’). This loosely translates as a spirit, or god even. There being a myriad of these Kami, they reside in everything but some places are considered to have a more scared spirit within them. Quite often these are rocks, rivers, trees, mountains and other such calming natural places, hence why so many shrines are built in such unique areas.

Given the nature of A Long Journey, even the track titles themselves, I am reminded of how I feel when I visit these sacred places. Whilst people might not believe in religion and its after-thoughts, there is something about such places that creates a space within, a quiet space of peace and calm. In the music and indeed the titles themselves, it is this very feeling I get when I listen to A Long Journey. Its very focused on its field recordings, but it also highlights what a fabulously talented musician Chihei is, with very direct guitar-based pieces, as well as gorgeous piano elements. That it features the enormously talented (and future Home Normal artist) Federico Durand, only highlights its beautiful mystery (after all…Federico does much of his recording high up in the mountains of his native Argentina).

It was a heavy snowfall the winter we met in Bellingham, and we spent a few days together with good friends, enjoying the misty seas, views and snow-covered tree dense walks just outside the town. As Chihei made his way to San Francisco, it must have been quite a continuation of this feeling, with San Francisco’s calming charm and grey misty views. The great thing about Kami is that they are not limited to Japan of course, they are found everywhere after all. If “A Long Journey” is a metaphor for life, then it is a life of peace and tranquility, filled with Kami, and that is not a bad journey at all

Ian Hawgood

All songs written and mixed by Chihei Hatakeyama, except track 8, which is a collaboration with Federico Durand

Mastered by Hideki Ataka from Airplane Label
Photography by Danielle Baquet-Long

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Here's a sample of 'A Long Journey' which is free to download:


近年その多作ぶりを発揮して様々なレーベルからリリースを行い、世界的に高い評価を得ている東京在住のアーティスト畠山地平。充実の2009年を飾る最新 作が home normalよりリリース。アメリカの冬の西海岸ワシントン州ベリングハム〜サンフランシスコへの旅から受けたインスピレーションをもとに、「長い旅」を イメージして作られたアルバムです。メインとなるフィールドレコーディングは、実際にベリングハムとサンフランシスコの音を使用。またサンフランシスコの ストリートで彼が出会い感銘を受けたロック・ミュージシャンの演奏をもとに、ドローンを生成しています。“長い旅”とはひとつの人生の隠喩であり、誕生か ら死までひとつの終末に向かって収束していくように構成された見事なまでに美しく壮大な作品。spekkからリリース予定のアルゼンチン人アーティスト federico durandとのコラボレーション・トラックを1曲収録。アートワークの印象的な写真は、残念ながら病気でこの世を去ってしまった celerの danielle baquet-longによるものです。

A delightful way to start the week with this luscious work from Chiei Hatakeyama. As you’d expect this is a beautiful release that’s full of passion and calming, serene tracks with his signature natural flow. With Chihei’s music you can tell where he’s coming from by just reading the tracks titles; Reflecting On The Surface Of The Ocean, A Quiet Pond, Waves… they conjure up images of landscapes and seascapes, tranquil glades and warm afternoons. And the music perfectly suits these titles. Gentle, undulating ambience crafted with care and a lovely sense of charming melody. Mixing slightly more drone-based tracks with uplifting sonic textures, the blend works to create a soothing accompaniment to just about any situation. Whether working to it or simply relaxing and enjoying the friendly and engaging palette, you’ll get an awful lot of this time and time again. So dive in and allow yourself to be swept up in yet another exquisite release from Chihei and a further string to the mighty bow of the excellent Home Normal imprint. Recommended without hesitation.

Norman Records (Recommendation)
One of the toppermost contemporary ambient masters must surely be Chihei Hatakeyama, a man who, on new CD ‘A Long Journey’, translates his feelings and passion for the Shinto religion into gently cascading sound sculptures and purest waves of morphing audio bliss. He talks about how with Shinto, everything has a spirit, and indeed his lush, textured soundworld does – a detached & ponderous spirit maybe – but his music ranks amongst the most sublime post-drone/sound art I’ve had the fortune of hearing. I feel as though I’m suspended in an amorphous bubble, slowly floating around a Centerparks or summat on a warm, balmy day without a care in the world. Spectral & dreamy, in a digipak with superb art by Danielle Baquet-Long!

Boomkat (Album of the week)
Having enjoyed a busy and very fruitful 2009, Chihei Hatakeyama is set to kick off 2010 in much the same manner. Last year the Tokyo microsound composer delivered exceptional albums for Room40 and Under The Spire, now he’s on the verge of releasing another pairing of long-players over the next couple of months. The first of these comes via the dependably excellent Home Normal imprint, and bases itself upon field recordings made on a trip to San Francisco in 2006. Appropriately, the record is titled A Long Journey, and takes on the feel of a dreamlike sequence of scenes from different locations. The record begins with ‘Morning Arrive On The Island’, whose hazed-over tones are incredibly warm and welcoming, focusing more on Hatakayama’s processed guitar tones than any environmental or field recorded sounds. ‘Waves’ changes that to some degree, latching onto a sense of place with its denouement of filtered incidental recordings, while ‘Confession’ dissolves crowd noise into a misty stupor of drones – somehow making an everyday, street-bound racket sound like a beautiful auditory happening. Similarly, ‘Within New Trees’ You can hear a variety of montaged recordings evaporating into luscious, lulling tones, while ‘The Distant Sound Of Bustle’ goes largely unconditioned by any post-production, instead becoming a duet between street-side location noises and Hatakayama’s delicate piano musings. There are eleven excellent compositions here – let’s hope both Home Normal and Hatakayama himself can maintain this standard over 2010.

Tobias Fischer – Tokafi
You know the old saying that the first impression is always the best impression? Well, with Chihei Hatakeyama, it may not be entirely true. Despite being able to claim applauded releases on several leading labels, including Kranky and influential Australian imprint Room40, his star has risen steadily, but at a comparatively leisurely pace. For those measuring success by end-of-the-year-lists or ecstatic reviews, in fact, it must seem as though Hatakeyama were just one several talented Japanese producers working on a contemporary version of Ambient within a small and narrowly delineated niche. This seemingly self-evident line of reasoning would however significantly slight the scope of his achievements. Hatakeyama’s biography reveals an intriguing interest in an unusually wide array of styles and techniques: With Opitope, a duo with Tomoyoshi Date, he has fruitfully dabbled in electro-acoustic experimentation for several years, while his more recent Luis Nanook-project with Singer/Songwriter Tsutomu Satachi is dedicated to the definition and exploration of „the newest 2010 Folk sound“. Even the albums under his civilian name have always been harder to sensibly file away into standardised genre-drawers than his generally unquestioned allegiance with the Drone-scene may suggest – and they’re testimony to a restless mind obsessed with music in all its different forms and guises.

In opposition to the currently en-vogue brute-force-approach of trendy Doomsters, Hatakeyama’s drones are ephemeral entities made of air and breath, eschewing instantly pleasing cascades of shimmering harmonics and immediately gratifying gravitational Bass-fields. His entire oeuvre, in fact, is characterised by a seemingly impenetrable web of intertwining lines and ideas. To the unsuspecting ear, regularly massaged into wellness-heaven by smooth, simplistic filter-manipulations, there is quite a lot more going on here than can comfortably be taken in on an inattentive first listen. On „Ghostly Garden“ and „A Long Journey“ alike, textures are brimming with slowly blossoming motives and teeming with merely temporary themes, as several voices manifest themselves purely as fleeting timbral colours. With a single stroke of the brush, Hatakeyama is capable of taking his tracks from blinding light into deepest darkness, from auspicious animation to afflicted agitation or from warm major triads to eery minor chords, effortlessly creating worlds no longer made of concrete objects.

A Guitarist by trade, Hatakeyama has an astounding ability to get to the fundamental sonic characteristics of every instrument he can lay his hands on. Even after years of honing his skills, a playful naivete has remained essential to him: Reluctant to merely use acoustic timbres as cheap source material for electronic explorations, his gaze is instead directed at the outer limits of particular groups of sound, taking instrumental colors to the border of where they are still recognisable. In this alien grey-zone between familiar formants and vague textures, he will then start building his compositions with the complete freedom and nonchalance of a classical composer on a psychedelic trip to the countryside. At times, leaden weights seem to be attached to his keys, his mallets made of stone. Then again, the strings of his Guitar will spark aurora-like eruptions with each caress, a single note filled with myriads of metaphors and allusions.

Nowhere does this become more apparent than on „Ghostly Garden“, released early this year on Luxembourg’s Own Records. The spartan press release gives nothing away in conceptual terms, but it is safe to assume that Hatakeyama is portraying a personal space here, leading the listener by the hand to some of his favourite sites along a carefully arranged path. Joy and sadness, hope and despair, life and death are always closely connected, as even the most uplifting harmonies are enigmatically rising from a mysterious void whispering in indecipherable tongues. The opening is programmatic in this respect. Eight-minute „Shadows“ belies its name by flooding the space with light and luminescence, while subsequent „Voices“ sounds like a slightly disfigured mirror-image, with sharp, needly frequencies piercing their way through the soft outer skin. Rather than sculpting his images from long, sustained tones, Hatakeyama makes use of the more edgy qualities of impulse-drones, creating a flitting feeling akin to rays of water dancing on the moon-lit waves of a midnight-ocean.

There are several more of these twisted deja-vues to be found on the record. Knowing about the title to a piece, including „cave“, „slight trail“ or „stone wall island“, actually adds to the experience, as the „ghostly garden“ becomes increasingly tangible in a dream-like reality with each listen. After quickly switching from one mood to the next in the first half, the album dives headlong into a trio of more immersive excursions in the second, culminating in the extended meditation of the title-track: Over the course of ten minutes, loose, broken-keyed Piano-notes coalesce into a triumphant rainbow of shimmering tones generously spread out all across a threedimensional canvas. The artwork congenially mirrors the long-term effect on the subconscious exercised by the music: Folding out the digipack in full yields a striking contrast of dark depths and ultramarine splendour.

The contrast between this spooky, surreal ambiance and the soft and sweet qualities of “A Long Journey“ are astounding. Short, episodic pieces dominate the bulk of the latter, whose tender, hushed moods evoke images of lazy days at the Cote d’Azur, of relentless heat beating down on colourful promenades bustling with life. The palette again mainly comprises of ethereal atmospheres and kirlian-camera-shots of acoustic instruments. This time, however, loose notes actually converge into lascivious lyrical melodies, otherwordly drones cast melodious shadows on the wall and fragile field recordings are skilfully woven into the fabric of the music. This careful concretion enhances the filmic character of the album, as tracks take on the feeling of poignant scenes depicting an emotional state or sensory development. On „Within New Trees“, a half-awake harmonic undulation shines through what could be a sleepy morning in a French harbour town, with pitched sounds and musique concrete elements attaining an organic balance.

Rightly because of the concise character of these mostly between one- and four-minute-short miniatures, Hatakeyama’s propensity for turning discretion and subtlety into powerful tools comes to the fore even more prominently. Even nervous city noises seem to be flowing from a well of silence, in which solid states and recognisable shapes are reduced to watercolours, seguing in- and out of each other and merging into bright psychedelic mandalas. Hatakeyama sprinkles a couple of Piano drops here, a few loose Guitar tones there and plays his Vibraphone to the busy chatter of the mainstreet. You can almost see him sipping a fine Espresso as he leans back on his chair to take in the acoustic splendour around him.

Simply put, “A Long Journey“ feels like vacation, like bathing in the sensation of great calm and relaxation derived from several days spent in the sun. Pieces are arranged like slides in a photo viewer, each one capturing a particular moment in time. The result seems casual at times, especially when the album refuses to end at an emotional acme but chooses to gradually fade away with the outwardly unremarkable field recording of „The Dance of the Sea“. But again, a deep search for truth and the mysteries of existence has guided the composer’s hands. By means of highly efficient juxtaposition, there is a sense of transportation nonetheless, a feeling of sharing something profoundly personal. „Calm“, a four-minute-short collaboration with Argentinian colleague, Spekk-protege and upcoming Home-Normal-artist Federico Durand, is a case in point, sweetly chiming fireflies buzzing through an early evening sky covered by glistening clouds filled with miracles and wonder.

„Saunter“ may still rank as his boldest and most experimental release to date. But Hatakeyama’s last four releases suggest that his real interest may not lie in radical and uncontrolled experimentation anyway. Somewhere between tactile Sound Art and intricate ambiance, his music relies on the courage to let go of established formats and then reconstruct music anew from its ashes. Like the writings of a romantic Descartes, Hatakeyama’s tantalising tales are filled with the anticipatory breath of a fundamental proposition: That the true value of music can never be estimated on the strength of a first impression.

Peter van Cooten – Ambientblog.net
The cover: a vaguely faded photograph of a red-headed girl swimming.
Titles like: “Morning Arrive on the Island”, “The Moon Reflecting On The Surface Of The Ocean”, “Within New Trees”, “A Quiet Pond”, “Haze From The River”.
The sound: light-natured, never dark or threatening, perfectly in line with the track titles..

“A Long Journey” by Chihei Hatakeyama is a great release to celebrate the fresh Spring season.

Chihei refers to the Shinto religion of Japan, teaching us that “everything has a spiritual essence (a ‘Kami’). They reside in everything (…) Quite often these are rocks, rivers, trees, mountains and other such calming natural places”.

Living in San Francisco, Hatakeyama manages to conjure the inner calm and peacefullness of these natural shrines of the Japanese Shinto religion.

A while ago on the ambient music mailing list there was a short discussion about the difference between ambient music and ‘new age’ music. Though some ambient devotees (including myself) dread to be associated with the ‘new age’ genre, the border is a thin line that cannot easily be objectivated.
Someone on the list came up with this original definition: “New Age music is afraid of the dark – Ambient music isn’t.”

Though I did like that as a statement, in fact Chihei Hatakeyama’s “Long Journey” proves this definition very wrong.
It is light-hearted in nature, there’s nothing even remotely ‘dark’ on this release, but still it is definitely NOT ‘New Age’!
The difference may be in the intentions the music is created with. If it is it to explore new fields, new sounds, new dimensions, does not avoid to seek out adventurous paths, it’s not ‘New Age’. “New Age” is about avoiding risk and seeking comfort in well-known, soothing cliche’s that are not meant to raise an eyebrow.

Hatakeyama proves that adventurous music does not need to be ‘dark’ or ‘frightening’ to be adventurous and exploring. Did I mention that this is a perfect album to celebrate a new season?

Only a month after a review of his Own Records full-length, Ghostly Garden, appeared, we’re presented with another ravishing collection of meditative dreamscapes from Chihei Hatakeyama. In this case, he augments field recording material gathered in San Francisco during 2006 with treated natural instruments (guitar and piano) to create the eleven settings on A Long Journey, which, according to Hatakeyama, is designed to be heard as a metaphor for life and the journey from birth to death.
No one will mistake Hatakeyama’s “Morning Arrive on the Island” for an arrival on Skull Island, that’s for sure. The imaginary locales he conjures here and elsewhere are peaceful and tranquil in the extreme, settings where one encounters breathtaking scenery and life forms. Hatakeyama’s not afraid to encourage programmatic associations in his work either. Even without a title to suggest meaning, “Waves” still would prompt the evocation of graceful movements by colourful creatures far beneath the sea’s surface. At times, not just titles but real-world details appear to root a piece in a specific context, such as when sounds of people talking and bustling about surface amidst treated guitar tones during “Within New Trees” and when the clamour of crowds and bells appears alongside watery piano playing in “The Distant Sound of a Bustle.” In other cases, the beauty of pure sound dominates, such as when crystalline guitar shadings course through “Haze From The River” as brilliantly as light illuminating stained glass windows. Regardless, whether it be the becalmed blur of “The Moon Reflecting on the Surface of the Ocean” and “White Light” or the lustrous sparkle of “Calm” (a collaboration with Federico Durand), Hatakeyama’s pieces are always transporting.