Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Album Review: Kashiwa Daisuke-88

I really make no secret about it—Kashiwa Daisuke’s 2007 masterpiece, Program Music I is one of, if not my favorite album of all time. Truly, I could write pages upon pages why the album means so much to me, how its endless complexities and extravagant melodies still appeal to me in the same way they did those years ago. I can even recount my very first experience with the album. Rarely does an album come along that convinces me that music can transcend an artistic medium, and become something greater, something effectual and tangible. Program Music I, in its short life span, has had this effect on more persons than just I. In fact, people all over sing Daisuke’s praises, despite some of his more questionable moves
For people who’ve loved Daisuke, his newest release, 88, is for you. For those who’ve not seen what others have, this album may still be for you. The record derives its name from the number of keys on the piano. The piano of course being the sole instrument used on 88. It’s an immensely stripped down affair, consisting of only piano melodies. A bold move considering his 2009 release, Dec. 5 was anything but “stripped down.” It was an album of uncompromising madness, so much that even World’s End Girlfriend’s Katsuhiko Maeda would scratch his head. In said album, Daisuke took his electronic sensibilities to new heights, creating a frenetic, chaotic record that was both disjointed and disappointingly jarring considering its predecessor’s pedigree. 88 mirrors this sublimely, a sentiment that may come as a relief to longtime fans, but may be disappointing to those fans who are newer.

Despite being more of a “return to form,” 88 is unlike anything Daisuke has ever done before. As stated previously, that album consists of one instrument: the piano. This creates a much, much more intimate atmosphere, as the listener feels much more connected to Daisuke the artist. While he may not be a Franz Liszt, Daisuke is fairly affluent in piano and its composition. The songs are not the most complex pieces out there, nor are they the most technically demanding. However, what they have in spades is “soul.” Many of the tracks are tender, thoughtful compositions that cover a myriad of emotions, all through the simple yet beautiful sounds of the piano. Whether it be the eerie, melancholy of “Scorpion of Red Eyes,” or the sweet, dulcet tones of “Good-bye,” 88 touches upon many feelings, making it a varied album with excellent songwriting to back it up.

Consisting of eleven tracks, with run-times ranging from a minute to over ten, 88 is a rather lengthy album. And although most of the album is shear gold, it dips not only in quality, but in consistency as well. Although each track is fresh in its own way, some are less so than others, namely “My Favorite Things.” Yes that’s actually a cover from The Sound of Music. It quite honestly doesn’t fit well, especially when taking into consideration that it is simply a poor rendition of the song, completely destroying the jovial mood and flow. “Scorpion of Red Eyes,” on the other hand, isn’t a cover; so much as it is a re-imagining of the first few minutes of “Stella,” his most critically acclaimed work. Lacking the more complex moods found in the original, it comes off a light and forgettable. Despite these few missteps, 88 is filled with stellar tracks. The longer songs, such as “In the Lake” and “Swan Song,” are some of Daisuke’s best ever. They move with passion and intensity, and never once falter under the weight of their ambition. Truly standouts in an album full of worthy pieces.

88 is the album fans have been waiting for since Program Music I. Although it is vastly different from said album, it shows Daisuke’s commitment to once again composing complex and beautiful music, rather than cater to some maddening musical concept. Sure, at times the album feels almost too stripped down for its own good, but it’s grounded, confident, and ultimately incredibly consistent. Whether you listen intently, or in shot capricious bursts, 88’s lovely melodies will appeal to you, comfort you, and convince you that even the most simple form of music can create vast, complex soundscapes. Welcome back Daisuke, we’ve missed you.

Official Site

1. Ohka 01:41
2. Quartz 03:16
3. Coto 04:11
4. Swan Song 10:11
5. My Favorite Things 04:09
6. the Night of the Kentaurus Festival 07:14
7. Albireo 04:23
8. Scorpion of Red Eyes 04:52
9. Good-bye 05:06
10. Travel Around Stars 04:53
11. In The Lake 08:28

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