First off, go and check out the YouTube videos. There are some wonderful images of urban life in Japan, which stir up strong feelings of ‘hazukashii’ in me (nostalgia, I used to live there). This feeling is intensified by the accompanying music. Reminiscent of Japanese electronica legend Rei Harakami, who sadly passed away in 2011 at the untimely age of 40, Haioka makes use of cutting edge electronic equipment, resplendent with the ubiquitous loop function. However, while modernity is to the fore, he likes to combine this with traditional Japanese instruments like the koto, which creates a beautiful juxtaposition between the ancient and the contemporary, something creatives in Japan are renowned for.
Haioka ’s aim is to create a floating world, such as that depicted in the famous ukiyo-e art of 17th century Japan. He achieves this with repetition of simple bass lines overlapped with string-based riffs layered on top of one another and interspersed with the aforementioned koto, guitar or various percussive instruments/sounds, as well as deeply hummed monky male voices (not monkey, that would be odd). The simplicity of ukiyo-e, with it’s almost cartoon-like colourful imagery is reflected in the largely pentatonic scales so closely associated with east Asia.
While none of the tracks on Riwaindo (rewind, if you haven’t figured it out already) are in a particular hurry, they are not boring. Interest is held via the drifting transitions between sections, it is easy to miss the exact point at which one theme moves into another, further enhancing the ukiyo-e feeling.
When listening to this album it is easy to imagine that had the folk musicians of 15th and 16th century Japan been alive today they might have composed similarly ethereal sounding pieces. The versatility of Riwaindo is such that it can easily cerebrally enhance an academic writing session, provide motivation for a workout in the gym, accompany a historical portrayal of Edo period Japan, aid digestion at a dinner party or perhaps enrich the enjoyment of reading the brilliant ‘Musashi’ by Eiji Yoshikawa (other less specific uses are available).
Haioka’s style ranges from ambient to dubstep, but never betrays the Japanese core of what he is trying to achieve. I am totally engrossed in this album, and having listened to it three times already I am now going to stick it on again and settle down with a pot of matcha green tea, some ebi maki and the book of five rings to learn about the art of war through flower arranging.
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