Boomkat Product Review:
Although the title might intimate a certain amount of nonchalance, this magnificent new album from Tokyo-based electronic composer Chihei Hatakeyama (the second to be released since his excellent Kranky debut Minima Moralia) sounds far from casual. Every fibre of this sonic tapestry has been fastidiously and thoughtfully arranged into position, instilling the music with a depth that can be appreciated both on close inspection and as a warm, auditory duvet to hide yourself away in - comparisons to Taylor Deupree's Northern wouldn't be untoward. Hatekeyama has declared that Saunter is his musical interpretation of the monochromatic Chinese painting style Sansui-Ga (which is presumably also mirrored in the sleeve photography), and further to that, it's an album that sets out to interpret landscape, nature and the encroachment of winter. It's very easy to make these sorts of evocative, abstractly associative statements, but an entirely different proposition when it comes to substantiating them. Hatakeyama's album might just be one of those rare works that truly does offer an emotional springboard into some figurative sonic universe though. It transcends both the customary micro-drone categorizations and the purely decorative allusions of run-of-the-mill ambient music. Take 'Small Pond' as an example of Hatakeyama's modus operandi: it's a glorious little thing, and a wonderfully impressionistic portrait of its subject matter; Hatakeyama lays out a shimmering surface of tonal sustain dotted with flickers of guitar, all encased in immersive rainy timbres. At one point you hear a figure walk across the scene from left to right, trudging through puddles in a brilliantly tactile and physically rendered fashion. Within four minutes the piece really does set the scene for a rainy day spent by a surface of water - which may seem like a fairly unremarkable achievement, but when you consider this is done predominantly by employing musical suggestion and metaphor over matter-of-fact Chris Watson levels of scrutiny, it's actually rather special.