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Akira Kosemura: Polaroid Piano

img  Tobias Fischer

As Akira Kosemura well knows, music is hardly ever as simple as snapshot photography. Regardless of whether you're listening to it in a concert hall or on the puny speakers of your laptop, it has long lost its virginity: Natural sounds are fed through effect pedals. Rhythmical imperfections are quantised. Organic resonance is enriched by ornamental reverb. Spontaneity is turning into a function in which the simplicity of the moment loses itself in minutely planned arrangements and carefully orchestrated interactions. Ever since Glenn Gould discovered the studio as a space of shaping a new reality, the connection between the immediacy of discovering a musical idea and the experience of a record has been severed – if it was ever there in the first place. When people speak of being touched by the „emotionality“ and „honesty“ of an artist, they are talking about a product which has typically gone through countless cycles of sculpting, review and transformation. In short: Music is artifice and the proliferation of cheap yet professional production technology is leading it further and further away from the purity of its roots.

In comparison, „Polaroid Piano“ sounds almost primordial: One man. His Piano. Sometimes a Guitar. Occasionally a Glockenspiel. The sound of fingers moving over the keyboard and pressing down keys. The sounds of the room. Strikingly simple pieces recorded on what could be an antiquated tape recorder. Everything that is usually edited out is wilfully kept in: You can hear every wrong note, all the microtonal impurities of the instrument's tunings, the second of hesitation preceding the next chord. There is no compositional urgency and professional distance in these recordings, which are voyeuristic less in an arousing, but rather in an intensely calming fashion: You could imagine listening to these between one and four minute short miniatures through the walls of adjacent dormitories, imagine Kosemura taking a break from practising Chopin and Satie all day. You could even imagine yourself sitting there in his room together with him, vividly visualise what it looks like, what kind of books he's reading and whether he's looking out the window while playing.

Quite a few of these tracks are sketches in the most original meaning of the word: Quick drawings created with nothing but a few precisely placed brush strokes, unframed and left in their undeveloped state. Others are mere variations of a melodic idea or a harmonic motive. And then there are some which sound as though the composer had been passionately playing and practising them prior to the recording, naive yet perfectly imagined cascades of satin fluency, pearly timbres and artfully articulated arpeggios. It is a kind of intimacy and nakedness which feels slightly scary at first. Established relationships which award a place and a position to everything in music are sidelined, as „Polaroid Piano“ effectively wipes out the borders between improvisation and composition, between between album and demo as well as between artist and audience. The more one listens, however, the more this absence of absoluteness is turning into a hypnotic virtue. While most contemporary works are always consciously conceived as part of a tradition, references to something else and demand not just to be heard, but analysed, categorised and evaluated at the same time, you can just lean back and listen on this occasion. There is no good or bad, no right or wrong. As if centuries of music had been put to temporary hibernation, intuition and feeling are the compass again to navigate „Polaroid Piano“.

And yet, make no mistake: As direct and immediate as the album may appear, it is most definitely the result of a meticulous mind. Quiet field recordings contributed by Room40- and Something Good-label-head Lawrence English add a layer of dreaminess. Processed backwards sounds are making an appearance. And in the final two cuts, the elements are re-arranged into what could just as well be a hazy kind of Electronica. Perhaps this is only a logical conclusion. As Akira Kosemura well knows, getting music to sound like snapshot photography doesn't just mean doing away with professional production software and recording yourself improvising in your living room. In a world in which the borders between reality and virtuality are increasingly blurring, the answer to a call for more immediacy will by default have to be a new kind of artifice itself.

By Tobias Fischer

Homepage: Akira Kosemura
Homepage: Someone Good Records

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