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Takagi Masakatsu - Journal for People

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Artist: Takagi Masakatsu

Album: Journal for People

Label: Daisyworld

Review date: Aug. 26, 2002

Masakatsu offers a fairly fresh approach, which I first encountered on his Opus Pia album, apparently loading guitar, piano, and field recordings into a computer, then heavily editing and processing them. What I find to be a big advantage to this approach, as compared to all-digital manipulations, is that the organic feel of the original recordings shines through you can tell that an instrument was played, because the sound shadings aren't digitally consistent.

Nonetheless, there's not always much of the original sound remaining intact on Journal for People. "Uter 1", which opens this album, is typical of the thirteen tracks here: humming, scintillating sounds spring into being, filtered and edited into pure sonic constructions. While choppy, the sounds maintain an almost user-friendly nature somehow this isn't editing for the sake of shock, and it doesn't at all feel random. There's a clear sense of composition at work which lends the whole an attractive cohesion.

"J.F.P." is an example of Masakatsu's pleasant combinations of digital trickery with organic humanity, as delicate piano playing is placed over a repeating, rhythmic layer of computer-edited sounds. The rhythm breaks apart into a hypnotic ping-ponging, while the piano remains calm and idyllic, like a nocturne amidst a tornado.

The trilogy of "Ketle" songs seems to be oriented around organ, with clicking and manipulated sounds wandering in and about the keyboard. "Ketle 3" sounds a bit like a French sidewalk cafe to me, although admittedly I'm not sure why. Perhaps a German polka lounge instead? Dunno, but the organ sounds a bit like an accordion, and the edited sounds swaying in and out throw it off-kilter in a charming way. Closing my eyes puts me in mind of being drunk in an anonymous European city, staggering through narrow alleys and hearing bits and pieces of sound emanating from basement bars.

"Wonderland" is a beautiful example of field recordings mixed with other sounds, concluding with the sound of fireworks going off, while "Birdland" consists of pure piano busy, but not too busy, with fast repeated notes alternating in a trace-inducing way. Chopin might be proud.

Towards the latter half of the album, the songs begin to lose some of their inspiration, unfortunately, and it must be said that Masakatsu's approach doesn't always work perfectly. "Aqua," for example, is a relatively predictable combination of rainy-day piano combined with the sounds of water being gently splashed around. Neither the piano nor the watery sounds are interesting enough on their own, and the blend of the two yields no surprises. "Waltz" is also lackluster, with lethargic piano over very minimal blips and whispers.

This small slip aside, I enjoyed Masakatsu's dreamy feel, the combination of real-world playing and surreal-world manipulations. When he balances the two perfectly, and imbues the results with a tinge of excitement and discovery, he's got my attention firmly fixed.

By Mason Jones

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