Title: Shards of Memory
Catalog Number: ALTM-021
Released: December 3rd, 2011
Label: Altema Records
License: CC BY-NC
I tend to stick with recent releases when writing reviews, however this is a release that has jumped out at me and grabbed a special place in my collection. It has found its way back into my player more times than many of the other releases that I have reviewed recently. Which is something of a surprise given how I came to acquire this release in the first place.
As is hopefully somewhat obvious to regular readers of my reviews, I have something of a passion for electronic music. But I have typically not gone out looking for Japanese Creative Commons releases. Like many Americans, I lack some knowledge of the big picture when it comes to the Creative Commons, and music around the world. Certainly, I try to keep my ears open to anything that I can find (the Negritage review is an example of finding release from a location I never expected to find it).
So, I felt it was an interesting challenge to find Japanese netlabels when one of the listeners of CerebralMix was trying to find Creative Commons J-Pop releases one evening. So, I dug around my collection, came up with a few Japanese artists that had been released on Jamendo and a few other netlabels, but they weren’t particular J-Pop, nor did I come up with any Japanese netlabels. So, a little more digging around on the ‘net and I came up with a list of Japanese netlabels that someone had compiled. It was a bit old, but as I started going through it, I found that many of the sites were still up and running. Well worth the time to investigate.
So, this release came from that search.
And this release keeps finding its way to my ears. What grabbed my ears fairly quickly about it was that I could hear a relationship between it and Candlegravity’s Junpei release, as well as a stylistic resemblance / reference to Steve Reich’s Electric Counterpoint with the guitar parts recorded by the magnificent Pat Metheny.
One of the reasons I think I haven’t paid as much attention of Japanese electronic music (especially within the last 5-10 years) has been something that is an interesting counter point to the Steve Reich piece. See, when Reich and Metheny worked on Electric Counterpoint there was a bit of work that had to be done to make the guitar parts idiomatic to make them “easy” to perform (well, as easy as a guitar master like Pat Metheny needs them to be arranged).
Much of the Japanese electronica I have heard seems to throw out the concept of being idiomatic. I think the logic is that this is electronically manipulated music, so why keep up the pretense of these being the actual instruments. That isn’t a concept that I disagree with, however, I think it can be done well and it can be done wrong or in a manner that cuts against the listeners perception.
Leggysalad is no exception to the suspension of idiomatic arrangement concept I have heard in Japanese electronic music. Just take the drums on Entrance or the vocals on Eve of the Festival as examples. However, in this case, it’s not something that is distracting from the overall works. By starting out with very clipped / fragmented guitar lines (which is something of an auditory representation of the “shards” in the title of this release) I immediately had already suspended some level of expectations in terms of the musical arrangements that I didn’t find the non-idiomatic arrangements distracting.
The other thing I tend to dislike in Japanese electronic music is the use of sampled and chopped up vocals. There is something to the vocal qualities of most of these styles that I just don’t have a preference for. However, Shards of Memory is one of the few releases that I can say that I didn’t mind the vocal styles. Perhaps because it wasn’t until the last two tracks that it introduces vocals into the songs, by which point I was already enchanted with the overall music I was listening to.
And, in fact, over time this release has really grown on me. As I’ve stated I find this release working its way back into my player on a frequent basis: perhaps once or twice a week. Every time I listen to it, I really enjoy it. The only wish I have is this was a longer release. At just under 17 minutes, I find myself listening to it two or three times, and then putting it away for a few days or a week. If it were longer, it might find its way into my player more frequently.