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Japanese minimalist H.Takahashi builds out his lo-fi sound on "Paleozoic", musing on social upheaval and expanding his environmental ambience into an orchestra of moving digital electronics.
If there's something that's been central to Hiroki Takahashi's signature sound, it's his dedication to a process of writing and recording using only Garageband and an iPhone. The immediacy lent his music a meditative and personal quality that's hard not to sink into, and that sublime simplicity still draws us to records like 2018's excellent "Low Power". On "Paleozoic" though, Takahashi felt as if he needed to flesh his sound out, so enlisted the help of sound engineer Kohei Oyamada, his bandmate in Atoris. "With his techno sensibility and sound engineering skills, he was able to bring me closer to the sound I've been chasing, which is full of mystery, life and images of a wild and simple time," he explains.
"Paleozoic" was inspired by Takahashi's interest in prehistoric life, and the concept of extinction in the face of COVID-19. Despite this, it's not a gloomy record at all - it's a pensive expansion of the artist's fluid environmental ambience, that feels digital while remaining grounded in the natural world. From the moment the album begins with 'Drift', there's a sense that the music is informed by the movement of dewdrops on a leaf, or mist forming into clouds over a swamp. It's rhythmic, fluctuated sound that's assembled from tiny, echoing sine wave tones - as equally connected to Aphex Twin's "Selected Ambient Works II" as it is Hiroshi Yoshimura's influential "Green".
Takahashi guides these minuscule sine beads into harmonic clusters, creating a sound that's ambient without the baggage that word might usually bring. Instead, Takahashi's sound is animated and sculptural, rich with biology as if thousands of cells are moving at once through his teeming atmospheres. The songs aren't necessarily too different from one another but they don't need to be - Takahashi is attempting to evoke a mood to help us ponder big questions, and his music is pensive without being overly heavy or melancholy. It's quite a feat.