Masaya Ozaki – Fluid And Dreaming of Stripes (Eilean Records, 2015)


We’re all moving forwards through time, it’s an inevitability we must face; it drags us all inexorably along in its ever advancing current without any opportunity to stop or turn back or redo parts of its course despite our protestations. But supplemental to the natural progression of the order of things there is a human-run time, a secondary stream that carries with it airs of expectation in today’s society, certain predetermined areas of turbulence as we pass through key stages of growing up and movement into the great unknown of adulthood. Fluid And Dreaming of Stripes is kind of a softly spoken “fuck you” to these requirements and expectations, one that chooses to embrace a disconnect with societal pressures and drift on its own quiet path.

As we pass into independence in the opening track “Uprooted Space” we immediately get a feel for the quiet and minimalistic airs of the record to come as it unfolds on tired and distant piano strokes lost in a thick cassette fog. It proceeds slowly and with infinite precision but with an unmistakable sense of confusion and loss in these suffocating clouds of obfuscation, out of sync with reality and left out to dry in the dizzying void. These closed and shrouded atmospheres continue on in the slightly clearer movements of “Echoes of a Far Distant Past”, the fog of time and disillusionment coupling with the now thinly melancholic and wistful minor pianos as they dream of a time not long since passed that seemed easier and more carefree.

Ukulele makes its first appearance in the quiet dreamspace of “Patina”, the only hint of life in an otherwise empty expanse that’s populated only by the minutest of drones and is unquestionably the most sparse piece of the record, its passage as unobtrusive and barely impressionable as its impact upon the outside world. Speaking of which, “Ceaselessly” introduces itself immediately after to remind us of that place we’ve so distanced ourselves from in deliciously bleary ukulele processings, but its humble migrations and hint of warmth feel almost like they seek to find some aspect of good in the endless monotony of modern life rather than dismiss it entirely. It’s this introspection and critical thought that drives the lengthy “Subtlety In Reverie”, quietly blending the more hopeful and lightweight ukulele movements with the typically more morose piano in a generic lo-fi haze that watches serenely as life drifts by, spinning slowly in some obscure eddy on the edge of proceedings.

The remaining tracks of the album begin to feel increasingly more comfortable as time goes by; unquestionable album highlight “In Transit” ekes out thin synth drone explorations for an interesting change of pace, a textural knife edge that barely finds itself turning over as it generates threads of frail and faded minimalism, its changes and motions impossibly fragile in their construction, as though a slight instability would collapse the entire structure. Some sense of permanence and familiarity with nature and our surroundings begins to return in the luxurious field recordings of “Snowflakes On Fallen Leaves” as we seem to leave urban life behind us, wind and rain blending effortlessly with the foggy synth lines and complementary guitar pickings. Finally the title track arrives to close proceedings, but as it does so it seems to abandon us on the edge of darkness, a cooler and more ominous wind intruding upon our thoughts and deeper, echoic thuds pulsing through the tentative heart of the piece. It’s a closer that reminds us that distance from modernity and societal pressure doesn’t change the dimmed perceptions of others despite the welcome relief that it offers ourselves.

We live in a busy world and Ozaki, along with many others, seems wont to find solace in its ceaseless activity and endless requirements to live a richer or more fulfilled life on his own terms. As the album proceeds it begins to shake off the shroud of materialism and creative sparsity, captured in dense and impenetrable tape fuzz, to move into tracks filled with a greater clarity of instrumentation  and appreciation for their surroundings, more aware of the richness of life around them. It’s a delicate and rather fascinating experience watching this evolution proceed through the album’s languid pace and despite the already sizeable number of records that broach this subject, Ozaki manages to bring his own sense of space and characteristic style to the table in a satisfyingly different way.