Boomkat Product Review:
Mana offer an excellent first international showcase of Hiroyuki Onogawa’s filigree, minimalist film soundtracks, gathering cuts off his ’95 debut and two follow ups for a gorgeous 40 minute dream sequence RIYL Mark Snow, Ry Cooder, Kenji Kawai, Nozomu Matsumoto.
‘August In The Water: Music for Film 1995-2005’ cherry picks pieces from the titular ’95 film soundtrack, plus Labyrinth of Dreams (1997), and Mirrored Mind (2005), for an immersive overview of work hard to find outside Japan. They all stem from Onogawa’s accompaniment to films imagined by Gakuryū Ishii (formally known as Sogo Ishii), whose ‘Crazy Thunder Road’ (1980) is regularly cited as the first Japanese cyberpunk flick, and, like Onogawa’s music, has until recently been difficult to find beyond the Far East. While the tracklist hops between films across a 10 year period, they share a clear emotional and aesthetic register of digital dread, paranoia, and dreamlike, melancholy lushness that jogs the listener’s nostalgia for sounds they may have never heard before, but patently remind of the formative thrill of discovering Japanese anime or cyberpunk, and finding their reference points everywhere from ‘90s sci fi and neo noir to Tarantino flicks.
With thanks to the efforts of UK distributors Third Window Films and forum-dwelling fans culling deep cuts from rare, private issue CDs, Onogawa’s exquisitely fine craft comes to light in a dozen works defined by their play of light and negative space, and highly synaesthetic, sensurreal ethers. You need no prior knowledge of the film to be enchanted by highlights such as ‘Endless’, with its tongue tip frisson of noctilucent pads, plangent bells and subaquatic tabla, or a sort of negative space in ‘Melting Skin’. The finesse of Mana’s selection comes into play with the Ry Cooder-esque country slide guitar theme from ‘Labyrinth of Dreams’, characterising the breadth of Onogawa’s palette along with the heart-in-mouth sting vignette ‘Reverse’, while a closing sequence of more discernibly traditional Japanese influences surface on ‘August In The Water 2005’ to bring us closest up to date with his work, which continues to receive acclaim.