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Haruka Nakamura: Twilight

img  Tobias Fischer

Most musicians still consider progress an indispensable virtue. And yet, some of the most fundamental things in life are based on routine and repetition: The cycles of birth, life and death, of blossoming beauty and irreversible decay, the seasons, the principles of falling in and out of love with someone. Japanese pianist, producer and improviser Haruka Nakamura has made these the focal points of his music. To Nakamura, there is still plenty of wonder to be found in daily life, surprises lurking even in the most basic propositions. On his first two albums, a seemingly unspectacular word like „grace“ delineated a compositional approach of imposing depth, as the mere sight of a garden or the sensation of fine drizzle on his skin were capable of sparking miniature-scale concertos of utmost refinement. For Twilight, he has turned, as a source of inspiration, to the time between day and night, when the delicate rays of the setting sun enter into a harmonious yet strangely ambivalent truce with the impending darkness and the world is caught in a suspenseful moment of great anticipation and infinite calm. It is a time that has come to embody entire philosophies as well as spiritual concepts, but which means nothing more and nothing less than that „we're moving towards tomorrow“ to him: Light gives way to shadow, one day ends and another one commences – that is all there is to make the moment special.

Accordingly, images of tangible tenderness, quietude and stillness, of melancholy and an inexplicable longing grace the pleasantly rough yet extremely delicate pages of the 24-page hardcover-book protecting the CD: An empty bridge drenched in grainy, blue-greenish orange, the sun shining dreamily through the leaves of a sleepy tree, the meditative silence of a bedroom, rose petals strewn across a small stretch of asphalt – just flicking through the pages takes one instantly to a place where attention turns to the inside and long-forgotten memories can suddenly seem real and fresh. If the imagery should seem just as important to Nakamura as the sounds, this is no coincidence, as snapshot-like Polaroids such as the ones collected here hold the potential of triggering sonic cues to him. The slightly blurry tones of the photography congenially capture the emotional ambivalence of the early evening's plentiful moods, which, in turn, find themselves reflected in the music: Despite its spontaneous air, Twilight foremost breathes minute attention to detail, displaying an astounding ear for orchestration in every single instant.

Following in the footsteps of French impressionists like Monet and Satie, Nakamura is putting together his acoustic paintings dot by dot, capturing the fragile fleetingness and ephemeral intensity of a moment rather than aiming at documentary precision. Colour is everything to him and the post-romantic idea of a Klangfarbenmelodie, of using timbre as a musical tool alongside more conventional elements like harmony or melody, takes on seminal importance. Already in his instrumentational decisions, Nakamura reveals his declared intention of creating a spellbinding sonic palette to match the visual aspects of his vision: Bronze-tinged Tenor- and goldenly glowing Soprano-Saxophones, silvery Flute and pearly drum brushes sketch metaphorical allusions to an early-evening-skyline, on which his Piano-tones dance like little birds flapping their wings in excited anticipation. Even Nakamura's chords, peacefully resting inside themselves yet imbued with a certain restlessness and inability to resolve, are pure tonal paint, freed from any kind of limiting functionality and goal-oriented direction.

It is therefore most certainly three-and-a-half-minute short „dialogo“, rather than some of the more strikingly melodic passages, which must be considered the album's most representative cut: The opening seconds consist of nothing but seemingly random Piano-sprinkles, shimmering droplets only faintly attracted to each other by key and thematic glue. Isao Saito's cymbals come in with a tentative, almost absent-minded sensuality, Araki Shin's Saxophone leaves a streak of nocturnal red on the canvas and then the solitary notes coalesce into a chain of complex harmonies, each chord clearly delineated from the next and growing without apparent relation to its predecessor, floating by like shapeless clouds, gently, peacefully, from one corner of the horizon to the other, before eventually disappearing from sight.

Even though these pieces have clearly been informed by Jazz and chambermusical ensemble play, a sense of estrangement is equally pervasive. Rupturing the steady flow of short, playful and sweet duo- or trio-constellations are two long pieces around the eight- to nine-minute mark on which the prominent use of immersive electronic textures, field recordings, hazy vocals and an otherworldly pop-sensitivity create a sudden tactile shift: „Faraway“ rises slowly from the tranquil patter of rain, its delayed rhodes' chords propelled by a slick, elegant bass-theme, two Saxophone lines, one fast and associative, the other focused and ambient, enigmatically mysteriously run in sync with each other. The title track, a sultry waltz recorded in collaboration with Aspidistrafly's April Lee, meanwhile, leans on evocative backwards sounds and the hypnotic repetition of its catchword, creating a powerful maelstrom pulling the listener straight into a vortex of warmth, light and joy. It is in these pieces, too, that the album takes the decisive step from being a pleasant collection of sensitive compositions to a work of greater ambitions and programmatic coherency.

It is telling that Nakamura doesn't end the album on this high note, but follows it up with two short sketches, closing it out in a quiet fashion. The time of twilight is a time of transition, after all, without a real beginning and end, whose strength lies in its sense of spiritual elevation. In a sense, just like some of the most fundamental things in life, it isn't even there at all.

By Tobias Fischer

Homepage: Haruka Nakamura
Homepage: Kitchen_Label

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