Journal for People
’ve spent so much time listening to men and women slice techno into bits that I’ve forgotten what conventional techno sounds like. But it’s not a loss. Takagi Masakatsu, a Japanese filmmaker/composer, only reinforces that blissful ignorance. In his music video for “Wonderland,” he distorts the camera’s focus on firework explosions and renders every spark into either circles or hexagons that scatter across the black sky. The music is little more than a piano lullaby’s notes hitting and rippling like pondwater, while the air is thickened by snapping glitches and a humidifying bass drone. Everything appears and sounds like a half-faded, peaceful memory.
Masakatsu takes such an aesthetic of half-asleep beauty and imbues post-techno ballads and visuals with it on his newest album, Journal for People. The music could qualify as “glitch”—often enough guitar and piano melodies are splintered with grainy digital noise, while looped drones are disrupted by the noises of computers struggling to correct themselves. Included is a DVD of his music videos, which synchronized images to his music, as brilliantly seen with the strobe-like sunlight that haunts the footage of children ice-skating in “Pia #12” and the choppy flow of water splashes caught in mid-air in “Ketle.” These days, glitch is often derided as soulless—frigid and confused about its direction.
Journal defies such cynicism. Masakatsu places a unique humanity in the music akin to the work of Nobukazu Takemura or Mouse on Mars. “Ketle 3” beautifully illustrates that approach by first smearing sporadic fragments of a synth melody before dropping the song’s eyelids with a blurred R&B; melody and an accordion that lazily floats downstream. “Uter 1” renders an acoustic guitar’s notes into pollen drifting into the breeze, while its sequel, “Uter 2” boils these sounds in a kettle that nearly spills onto its stove until the song oddly gives way to a field recording of a nightfallen street. Elsewhere, Masakatsu constructs tracks from piano (the frayed ballad “Waltz”) and water dripping (the appropriately titled “Aqua.”).
The graceful psychedelica of Journal keeps sentimentality at bay, inviting the listener to explore curiosities instead of dwelling on sappy emotion. However, “Light Song” ends the record on a cloying note with a cute, but heavy-handed duet between Masakatsu on piano and a young boy singing “la,la-la-la, la.” The song’s video features children running among the stars, reveling in the sort of kitsch value that you might find in a “childhood memories” video made at a shopping mall. Such a sight only reminds one of what makes those blurred ice skaters’ jackets in the “Pia #12” video so mesmerizing—Masakatsu is best when he leaves out the details, leaving the audience to fill in the gaps.
Reviewed by: Cameron Macdonald
Reviewed on: 2006-04-28