Monologue by Tomotsugu Nakamura

Tomotsugu Nakamura | Monologue
Audiobulb (LP/DL)

I first encountered the music of Tomotsugu Nakamura back in 2013 when he released his debut album Slow Weather. This first record shared a similar aesthetic sensibility as other Japanese artists working in the ambient field at the time, but with each subsequent release, Nakamura has refined his style into one that is very much his own.

His latest work, Monologue has been issued on the Audiobulb label, and finds Nakamura honing and purifying his approach into his most minimal to date.  Constructed from gently played acoustic guitar, piano, field recordings and Max/MSP processing, it continues his exploration of pastoral ambience, but with so much space between sounds that there is an airiness and buoyancy, giving the illusion of music that is hovering around the room of the listener.

The record as a whole shares a sonic consistency:  guitar notes are strummed and plucked, sometimes melodic, other times angular.  The digital processing is restrained and never outright glitchy, adding microscopic delays here and there, or little cut-ups and sudden edits.  These provide an understated drama throughout, perhaps rescuing things from becoming too polite.  But it’s this sense of restraint that marks the album out as meditative, music that should be enjoyed quietly.

The title track opens the album with those signature guitar strums, slightly chopped up into a slow melody, occasional reversed notes sliding into the frame.  A little electrical crackle between notes, and some found sounds threaded through.  And that’s it.  Simple, yet effective.  And at just over two minutes, it feels like a self-contained snapshot of Nakamura’s idea, crystalized.

Violet leaves the guitar out and focuses on piano instead, little rings and stutters accompanying its melancholic melody.  Again, at only a couple of minutes in length, it isn’t allowed to outstay its welcome, the idea has been explored and executed succinctly.  In fact, every track is short on duration, but never at all feels like a sketch.  Euphemisms is the longest track, at a whopping 4 minutes, and at this longer time is allowed to breathe a bit more, but I don’t find the other tracks require such breathing space.  Each track blends in nicely with the next, making this an album most definitely to be listened to as a whole.  Nakamura has created an album of elegance, an exercise in restraint and craftsmanship, basking in a sense of calm and simplicity.  It’s an album for rainy afternoons, or warm evenings, listened to with the window open so as to soundtrack our everyday environment.

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