Masayoshi Fujita - Stories

by Daryl Worthington Rating:8.5 Release Date:2013-01-29

The debut solo album by Masayoshi Fujita fits seamlessly alongside the likes of Nils Frahm and Olaf Arnauds. The album is built on Fujita's solo vibraphone playing. Rarely a leading instrument in modern music, Fujita extracts from the instrument a mesmerising array of bell like tones, glassy chimes, percussive arpeggio's and vibrato-affected sustaining notes to create an almost lyrical effect from this purely instrumental album.

The components of each of the tracks are similar, a basis of the vibraphone, occasionally bolstered by strings, subtle percussion and atmospheric sounds. Fujita's skill lies in using the full range of the vibraphone alongside imaginative composition and arrangement to give each track a clear and specific identity. Closing track 'Memories of the Wind' captures perfectly the imagery suggested by its title. The arrangement is defined by its use of silence and space, the gaps between each melody and flourish on the vibraphone feeling like the disorientating effect of the wind. To use a slightly cheesy but appropriate metaphor, if one thinks of the small clusters of notes as objects on a landscape, the silence is like the wind blowing through them and around them, engulfing them in something without a clearly defined form.

Fujita currently resides in Berlin, and in many ways this album is reflective of a capital city which is filled with parks, forests, rivers and lakes. Michael Rother from the German band Neu! said in a BBC interview that his compositions were often inspired by living near water, by it's relentless yet tranquil energy, and this is something Fujita taps into on this album. On 'River', one can picture the Spree running through the centre of the city. Subtle, shuffling hi-hats underpin the wave-like riff on the vibraphone. Violin and cello join in giving the whole piece a greater sense of melodic movement.

The track has a sense of serene momentum, in some ways capturing the contrasts of a river calmly passing through a bustling metropolis. On 'Story of Waterfall I and II' Fujita captures another side of the movement of water. The track begins sparsely, but the tracks intensity and pace shifts seemingly with a will of its own, again reflecting the chaotic nature of its subject. Mysterious sustaining notes from the vibraphone enter and leave. Wobbling with vibrato which gives the instrument its name, the track reflects the more chaotic nature of water, the unpredictable movements of a waterfall.

Often with instrumental music, the titles of songs are the last consideration, something that is put on at the end simply because everything needs a name. Fujita's Stories album sounds like the reverse of this, each track seems to be a reflection of its title, as if composed to reflect the environmental feature its title describes. 'Cloud' for example, is built on celestial-sounding drones. It sounds like it could be the sound of somebody rubbing their finger across the rim of a wine glass, the notes forming without any clear moment of attack, and then floating away into the ether, like the formation and disintegration of clouds.

Put simply, this is an album which creates beautiful music to reflect the world around the composer. The arrangements are nothing revolutionary, but they excel at generating the imagery intended and make for a wonderful soothing listen, and one that will definitely appeal to fans of Nils Frahm and Olaf Arnauds.

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