Hisato Higuchi’s first US release Dialogue felt like a conversation too intimate to share. If he hadn’t made the CD, you wouldn’t think that he wanted anyone to hear it; his gently strummed, barely effected electric guitar wouldn’t trouble a neighbor, even one on the other side of one of those notoriously thin Tokyo walls. His breathy, wordless vocalizations felt even more private, more like sounds a person might make when lost in reverie than anything you’d put on a record. While the music felt extremely personal, the soundworld into which it tapped wasn’t entirely unknown. Higuchi’s low-volume, low-velocity guitar bore a distinct resemblance to that of Loren Connors’ back in the days when he still called himself MazzaCane and he wasn’t putting any pedals between his guitar and his amp. The record’s mixture of uncomfortable proximity and apparent derivation felt more distancing than dialogic.
Butterfly Horse Street picks up the thread, but takes it to some surprising places. “A Hundred Signs of Light” opens with a familiar weave of quivering guitar notes and languid moans, but stretches them into something more tense and more aware of the outside world, if only in the way that Higuchi’s bent blue notes sound like flinching. He hits back with “Grow,” a concentrated fuzz-tone blast strong enough to put a hole through the wall. It sounds like its been compressed with heavy tones, not recording technology, and when the Neil Young-like lead pokes out, it’s as though his guitar notes took the place of that larva munching through the spaceman’s stomach in Alien.
“Blood And Leaves” follows with more storm and squall; when “Melody In the Mud” reverts to gentle sign and strum, the contrast with what has preceded make it seem more present and attractive than Dialogue’s similar performances; consequently Butterfly Horse Street feels like a more compelling record. Even so, Higuchi still seems so focused on compulsively describing the limits of his self-imposed prison that he misses a lot of fertile ground in between the boundaries.