Chihei Hatakeyama’s music spills out at you from some impossible reverie, creating a tangible dreamscape in music from some distant souvenir. His memories form in the abstract like a Joan Miró landscape painting, where mountains take on the shape of billowing clouds; water feels like silk; and the leaves rustling in the trees whisper of nostalgia from beyond the tangible past. Chihei Hatkeyama’s music pulls at the listener’s most personal experiences through music created from the artist’s own personal experiences re-imagined as a blank canvas. Elements of drone-ambiences and contrapuntal textures create thin sonic atmospheres that swallow you into its vacuous spaces like Steve Reich’s most acquiescent compositions.
It’s a sound Hatakeyama has established since his debut Minima Moralia in 2006 and something he continues to refine through his expansive discography, which marks more than 40 records to date. Through processed guitars, vibraphones and pianos, he creates evocative pieces that pass through your conscious like ships in the night, floating on a sea of fog which imbeds itself somewhere in your subconscious as a distant thought until you hear the next Hatakeyama piece. Today that piece is Coastal Railroads in Memories. An album inspired by the railroad running along the coast in Kamakura from the artist’s hometown Enoshima-Dentetsu, it’s the most personal Hatakeyama’s ever been on record, but like his previous work, any allusions to the artist is only in the sonic signature, and what you put into the listening experience is what you get out of it.
Coastal Railroads in Memories is the sound of Hatakeyama that we’ve come to know as languishing velvet tones on some unimaginable trajectory to nowhere, intermittently interjected by a whisper of a vibrating string, only faintly audible above the silk textures from which they appear. Those plucked strings act like the artist’s objective view of the landscape that floats past him from a train’s window. They are little memories that draw the listener into the contemplative world of the artist, from which s/he can create their own unique world. The album is positioned in the abstract and the only direct correlation we can draw to the artist’s experience happens on the final- and title track. Distant feedback re-enacts the frictional noise of steel wheels on steel tracks, while the tremolo effect of the larger piece translates the sense of movement or a panoramic view slowly panning past your field of vision. It’s the only obvious connection we get to the “private and nostalgic thing” this album is for Hatakeyama, but like the music’s effect on the listener it only needs to be fleeting, because the grace and the poise of the music is where its majesty lies.
The album lasts a mere fifty minutes in total and beyond that you are only left with the faint sense of its existence and like all the works that make up Chihei Hatakeyama’s vast musical universe, it secures itself somewhere deep in your subconscious, the artist’s coastal railroad memories now transferred to whoever would care to listen.