Saturday, March 9, 2013

Radicalfashion- Odori (2007)

Under the name Radicalfashion, Japanese pianist/programmer Hirohito Ihara crafted a special album that was simultaneously both unassuming and wildly inventive.  Combining glitch, neo-classical elements, simplistic piano, and musique concrete, Odori is a quick 30 minutes that floats from one idea to another, effortlessly shifting from carefree to contemplative to profound. 

After the liquid- sampling “Opener”, Odori quickly shifts to “Suna”, the first introduction of piano. “Suna” combines galloping piano with leftover looping from the opener to create a childlike atmosphere that quickly gives way to a somber ballroom dance.  Electronics and piano move in and out of focus, with one element dominating then the other responding appropriately, until the entire piece opens up and a hazy soundscape backs a solo violin that beautifully closes out the track.  “Thousand” flutters effervescently as a plucky piano and flute sample chug forward.  As the album progresses, “Shousetsu” proves to be the spiritual centerpiece of the release.  It begins with a looping click that Ihara reframes with a maudlin piano line.  As the click eventually fades away, Ihara is given space to expand his playing, leading to the most gorgeous, grandiose moment on the album. On such an intimate album, breaking through this restrained sound and creating such a majestic moment is a prime example of an expert composer capable of creating memorable moments rather than overloading the listener from the start.

Odori hinges on the dance between electronics and piano, where one bounces off the other constantly to drive individual tracks towards their end. With this interplay, Ihara creates a level of intimacy that thrives off of simplicity and end-focus.  Ihara is certainly skilled as a pianist, yet he’s willing to restrain himself from more embellished playing in order to create a specific atmosphere that couldn’t be accomplished by tearing apart the keys.  While this might distance listeners looking for a master pianist giving his fingers a workout, this restraint is the most important aspect to making this release succeed.  The end result is an absolutely lovely album that creates and maintains a singular atmosphere worth immersing yourself in.    

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