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Oba Masahiro: "Prot"

img  Tobias

We live in a divided world. Parties circumscribe political philosophies. Newspapers categorise the world into field of interest. Tradition and talent separate literature from the visual arts and the visual arts from music. The industry segments sound into styles. Confusion takes over as music fans are loosing themselves in niches and subgenres, cross-overs and counter-communities, dance and dream, functional music and absolute art. One could go as far as to claim that the highest creative achievement of the 21st century is to find a personal way through the maze, of recognising universal structures and hidden connections underneath the currents of polarity. And then, out of the blue, comes an artist with a blatant disrespect for categories. With an eye, an ear and a heart for what unites, rather then divides the atomised electronic music scenes. Whose approach seems analytical on paper but sound entirely organic in practise. Who bundles these different strands into a coherent expression. Enter Oba Masahiro.

If one adds to the list the facts that „prot“ is just an EP and only Masahiro's debut recording, these facts become even more astounding. On the other hand, something out of the ordinary was to be expected from someone who, among other, studied the Saxophone, participated in a Noise battle between various Japanese universities, heads a Student Association dedicated to contemporary arts, works in an Ambient laptop quartet, dabbles his feet in dance and holds an equal love for Jazz, Classical Music and Sound Art. You can hear these different factors, at least partially, coming together here, as each track deals with a different sonic territory: Introductory miniature „baku“ seems to signal a combination of acoustic instruments and field recordings, „still“ blends TripHop with floating Ambient, „flit“ is a deep drone trip, „oeil“ futuristic Electronica with bleeping melodies and the title track a long and harmonically intricate Piano solo. It makes for an improbably mix, but Masahiro has hidden plenty of subtle cross-references and guiding motives throughout the record to create a sensation of wholeness: The Piano from „prot“ makes an appearance on various pieces, vocal samples are embedded into musical textures and all compositions develop according to a floating logic rather than a strictly formalistic exposition of dynamic buildups or verse/ chorus formats.

Regardless of whether he is exploring his own vision of Techno or creating warm atmospheric washes of seductive pads, Masahiro despises a generic approach. To him, there can be softness in harshness, rigid beats and sweetness in dark nocturnal fantasies. „Prot“ is never satisfied with mere craftsmanship. The tracks always remain on the outlook for an intriguing degree of ambiguity and for ambition even in the most outwardly relaxed and romantic moments. Sounds, too, are never just obviously stereotypical, but retain an aura of self-referentiality, with discreet layers of glazed acoustic frost floating on top of them. It is up to the listener to find and uncover associations and as such, the only moment of recognisable passages of the entire album are probably incidental and completely intentional at the same time: The airy theme of „oeil“ harks back to Rammstein's „Du Hasst“, while the title track faintly hints at the „Blade Runner Soundtrack“'s intimate „Memories of Green“ (especially with the traffic noises quietly trickling in through one's open window).

After a mere five tracks, Masahiro closes his chapter of the story, leaving it up to friends and colleagues to draw their conclusions. It is by no means the end of „prot“, however: The concept of Symbolic Interaction's pragmatism series, which sees an EP bundled with a collection of associated remixes, fits his philosophy congenially. Where the stylistic diversity of reworkings usually comes across as a break in mood, it feels entirely natural here: Frans de Waard leads „flit“ into an ominous field of panning Bass tones and ghostly harmonics, for example, while the Motoro Faam edit is pure, undiluted Trance music. In the context of the release as a whole, both contribute to the already colourful collection without seeming out of place or forced. The same goes for the ambtions of Oba Masahiro, whose polystylistic outreach should turn a full-length in the same vein into a promising proposition.

By Tobias Fischer

Homepage: Oba Masahiro
Homepage: Symbolic Interaction Records

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