Emotive soundscapes carved from the musical mind of Hinata comprise this most beautiful of compilations.
Ahh Music From Memory. A label that knows no bounds when it comes to music’s capabilities to move, inspire and surprise. We have seen such an impressive stream of forgotten masterpieces being released under their watch, along with some incredible contemporary releases, from every genre under the sun imaginable. Whilst this might come as a burden, when labels over compensate for variety and disregard their core identity, Music From Memory are a rare exception to this rule. If you happen to pick up one of their releases, you always know the music contained within is going to channel its way into the inner sanctums of your minds, pull on the heart strings, and ignite new fires in your soul you never knew existed. We live and breath music in new ways, we discover tones and progressions we never knew existed. Every single time, we simply revel in the treasures presented to us, like moments in time encapsulated within a loving package, a short story of a place or context that now echoes harder than ever before. It might be some forgotten ambient record that will fill your mind with boundless imagination, or a compelling new release from one of the current scenes most talented producers, they certainly have you covered. The founders, Jamie Tiller and Tako Reyenga, have crafted one of contemporary music’s most revered and respected labels, a label that provides us with joy, delight and everything inbetween. From Garrett’s two releases, Joan Bibiloni’s ‘El Sur’, the Outro Tempo Releases, to Viktor, Yu Su, Jonny Nash and Curt Cress, and beyond. This writer implores you to just go out there and listen to all of it. Seriously. An almost unparalleled discography.
Anyway, today we are focusing on one of their 2019 releases, a collection of tunes from the Japanese composer Toshifumi Hinata. Hinata was a prolific producer during the 1980s and 90s, and this compilation brings together some select cuts from 1985-87. Hinata studied at Berklee College in America, and after becoming dissatisfied with pure classical, moved into explorations with synthesisers. Like many musicians who made this jump during the early 1980s, experimentation with the new sounds contained within synths would leave enduring hallmarks within music. Hinata approached compositions during this time by utilising drum machines and synths as the foundation, before weaving violins, piano and other traditional instruments in afterwards. What we are left with is a series of tracks that create crossing points between two worlds, where we feel the warmth permeate from both schools of musical thought. On the one hand, we feel the passion spread from the pads, chords from the deep that jump up and reach out to us, along with rhythmic sections that add texture and percussion. These create the perimeters, and then the traditional human touch comes into play in the middle, as piano and bass work their magic to mirror the electronic instruments. The experience is one of sensory delight, a phenomenal blend that leaves us reeling in a world filled with light and colour. Rich textures that run through our very essence, environments punctuated with stories and themes that guide us through. Anyway, time to jump in.
First comes ‘Sarah’s Crime’, that opens with the drums and the keys. Deep pads move on top of broken up electronic beats, soft and undulating, with chiming cymbals and kicks. Then the organ comes in, along with a bass line, that both weave and groove around the off kilter drum beat. We immediately feel the pull to get involved, the hypnotic contrast allowing us to pick up on every single element coming into play. The violin cuts through the tune like butter, every much filled the space between the two layers of composition. The space is filled to the brim, the violin doing the work beautifully, its melody just so infectious. As it fades away, we just await its return, and then it does, just like that. Like a lost friend that wondered away, we remain as the light. The organ jumps back in for one last foray, and this interplay between leads will last with us for a lifetime. Next comes ‘Midsummer Night’. The playful sounds of a xylophone interlaced with a snippet of a news report bring us into this next scene, as we imagine a view from a window onto a sprawling urban metropolis, with all manner of sounds and interactions. We then are hit by a wave of sound, a series of chords from the gods, that blend and move us into the abyss, before it breaks down for a second, the key switching up slightly. The progression moves on, adding more dynamism to its momentum, before channelling down. The track moves on like this before the pads fall away slightly to give in to soft piano movements. Hinata shows his classical skills here, as the series of movements takes us through a number of moments and movements in time. The spectrum reveals itself here, as over the course of the song we are greeted with layers upon layers of richness that just feels unrivalled. Every note and sound has its place, its flow as smooth as water, its delivery soft to the touch. Senses aflowing. Just everything here makes us want to live again. Next comes ‘新しい遊牧民 (Atarashii Yuhbokumin)’, that begins off with a drum machine giving way for the first ‘groove’ of the record. The piano line is interlaced with pads, again Hinata playing with variations in tempos to give us this undeniably intriguing sound to comprehend. The soft blows on a sax (I think?) are a precursor to a thick as hell bass line replacing the piano riff, as soft chords in the background maintain their journey. The tune switches once again, as the bass goes freeform as the piano goes back in. The beat is doing nothing different, all the change is coming from the melodic elements. How wonderful this experience this is to listen to, this could go on forever. Hinata takes his blending to new heights here, as the interchangeability between instruments just keeps on going. The sax comes in for one final swansong, as we endlessly float away on a bed of roses.
Next comes ‘異国の女たち (Ikoku No Onna Tachi)’. The track kicks off with chiming keys, that ebb and flow, with real care and thought going into their audial feel. There is a crunchiness to them, a real weight that moves on the low end as much as the high end. The range of tones is incredible, and it is all about the placement and rhythm of the pads here. The loop just keeps going, with variations added into the background that provide a backdrop to this most compelling of tracks. You will find yourself just zoning out to this one. Next comes ‘Pavement’, that brings the level down just a little bit. The focus here lies within the piano work, that ascends and descends with ease, moving between the lines. We picture rushing figures in the rain, on a busy yet heated day, as the track starts to descend, the mood changes. Swirling imminent danger, as we get all wrapped up in the story and mood that Hinata is trying to tell. Its nice to reach this point where we are treated to a track that still holds the same weight as the previous ones, but telling the story through only one instrument and some sound effects. Brilliant. Next comes ‘Coloured Air’, and the vibe moves back into deep, hazy synths. Chords abound, setting the base for more lines to add depth and richness to the track, that slowly unravels to show us its true form. Next comes ‘光と水 (Hikari To Mizu)’, and we come back down to earth with the piano taking us forward. As the intro plays itself out, we are greeted by beautiful chiming synths, that help to establish rhythm. Hinata shows us once more his ability to excite and challenge around every corner, as the interlude provides us with another wonderful contrast between old and new. The interlude features a vast array of instrumentation, complete with harps, keys and synths galore, as Hinata then moves us away from this fullness and towards the emotive piano. The transition is flawless, and we arrive full circle, content, with hope in our hearts. ‘蜃気楼 (Shinkiroh)’ is next, with deep deep deeeeeep chords being introduced first here. Little reverbed keys abound on top, as the chords move down and down, the organ seamlessly joining in for good measure. The track continues on in this manner, introducing a series of chords that really do strike us in all the right places, as it all filtered away then descends back in. We are in a field of corn, feeling the swaying grains in our hands, as we look up and see something extraordinary, before we look again and see nothing but the pastel sky.
To finish things up, we have the title track, and ‘小夜花 (Sayoka)’. On ‘Broken Belief’, a series of choral like vocal lines come in hard and fast, introducing us into another filled with layers of light and colour. The strata just keep on coming, as we look to weave our way in between the sounds that never seem to fall away. As we descend further, the artistry involved in creating this bubble of wonder is astonishing, every tone developed to the point of tears, and we can’t get enough. Hinata has crafted something here that is very, very special, and we cannot get away from it. Lush pools and vibrant oasis’s, vivid dreams and imaginations, transcendent to the point of no return. This music is not of this earth, it feels as if it landed here from some distant future, to remind us that it will all be okay. Such is its powerful to help us forget where we are, as the piano peeks through to give us this glimpse of what might have been. Finally, we arrive at the final track. And holy fucking jesus, did they save the best for last. In an album full of moments of pure beauty, its hard to pluck one out and elevate it above the rest. But as soon as the keys chime in on this one, you just know its going to be something special. The intro is sublime, as it falls away to give us over to a series of bongos and deep percussive moments, as guitar licks chime in on top to add that extra layer of riddim. The key line adds this beautiful layer, with chords in the background blending into the foundations, as we move forward through this pearl of a track. Whilst Hinata displayed a series of tunes based on reactions to immersion and tone, here we feel a more complete musical narrative, where every element from the record is intregrated fully into a spellbinding series of scenes. This song really does talk, it has a lot of things to say. And we are only so ready to listen, dipped into one final woodland walk where the green is extra green and the sunlight coming through is that extra warm. Sheer genius.
Toshifumi Hinata, he could write a song couldn’t he? This compilation remains one of 2019’s most enduring and intriguing releases, not only from its musical content but the story it tells. Music From Memory have a habit of picking records and musicians from the past and presents that weave visual stories into their work, and Hinata might have written their greatest one yet (and that is fucking saying something). From the depths of synth drenched bliss, to the liquid contrast between piano lines, to the sheer elevated beauty at times, this record ticks the boxes on everything we want from a full and life affirming listening experience. Our hearts are filled with light, with our minds running wild with visions of other worlds, contexts and environments. The sort of record that inspires and influences everything, from our mood to our creativity. The music moves us in ways we didn’t think possible, where we place ourselves in a musical narrative that pulls us into unknown but beautiful places. Thank you Toshifumi, for giving us reason to keep exploring the depths of our musical passions. May your music soundtrack our lives forevermore.
Support the record here:
Check out the rest of Music From Memory’s discography here (you should!!!!):