Genre: Electronica / Ambient / Experimental
03 Kuroi Uta
Shinji Yamashita is the man behind this soothing EP. It's a mix of traditional Japanese music, electronica and ambient experiments. Shinji Yamashita, born in Japan, lived in England for 7 years before moving back to Tokyo, and his music combines elements of both cultures. This EP is a brilliant example of melting-pot culture we find all over the world today. "Niraikani" is not a forcefull project by any means. It's subtle and gentle. Sometimes playfull. At times this album comes across as a bit bland and naive. It lacks the edge and the depth I was expecting when I pressed play. The EP consists of 3 relatively short tracks with various elements, ranging from melodic to ambient soundscapes with slightly darker over tones, combined with cut-up beats in IDM style. Yamashita is very much inspired by traditional japanese theater, Kabuki (popularised, highly stylised dance-drama) and Noh (Classical Japansese musical drama). That control, strict composision and drama is somewhat absent in these 3 tracks, but maybe that laid back vibe is his british influense.
Yamashita is a skilled illustrator however, and his cover is an interesting interpetation of the Kabuki dancers. He kept the design simple, in black and white, leaving his drawings to be the center of attention. The title of the EP "Niraikani", incidentally also track one, confused me as I could not find the word in my Japanese dictionary. Some research on the ol'web turned up some Hindu chanting. "kaithala niraikani" ("the fruit that filles the hand"). This leaves me to to wonder if Yamashita had contact with some hindu religion. Since most Japanese people do not identify as exclusively belonging to just one religion, such as Buddhism or Shintō, it's quite plausible.
The first track consists of a gentle and dreamy melody building up to edgy,electronica drums.It's an interesting intro indeed. Track two "Hananasa" is a difficult word to translate, but it means fragile in a good and highly aesthetic sense, fitting the vibe trough out the track. Starting elegantly with calming synths segueing into experimental beats. The third track title, "Kuroi Uta", translates to "Black poem". The title is highly becoming of the final track, which is the darkest of the three. It's more chaotic, and even combines samples of an electric guitar and what seems to be a harp (or perhaps a koto or shamisen). Harder beats, but the calming melody is present underneath it all. Yamashita creates an enigmatic sphere with his carefully collected influences and preferences, but I would like to feel more of the bizarre and powerfull, even scary, vibe one gets from the Kabuki actors.
Let it be said: I enjoy this EP as calming background music. There is a slight razor's edge through out but I really think this work would benefit from adding a tad more nerve. As it is now, it functions more like a sedative.