Masaki Hanakata has just released a two-track offering called “HIPPOPOTAMUS / PORT ELEPHANT”, and we’d like to talk about if for a moment.

Tokyo-based Hanakata cuts through the noise of a city synonymous with concrete, lack of space, and a music scene in which noise builds like sediments of competition. Like previous full length albums, Bremen Soundtrack, and Lentment,  this new release gives pause to all those clichés and offers a quintessentially Japanese sound, which is also nothing like the majority of Japanese bands making explorations into the western scene.

Delicate, hand-played instruments like mini-keys, nylon-string guitars, and ukuleles lay a foundation for the prettiest melodies, and Masaki Hanakata delivers magic in the form of toy instruments that capture the delicate objects of his desire. Fans of Jonsi’s “We Bought A Zoo” soundtrack will find an instant friend in this double-release. The weight of these great beasts is not the focus of Hanakata’s attention though – these pieces are more a discussion on the lighter soul of the creatures – the spiritual cleanliness of imagined animals. Magic, escapism, and wonder are the subjects that the artist concerns himself with.

With DIY production, Masaki Hanakata displays a clear affection for process, and the quietude of these two new songs is simply great. It’s rare that such un-cynical, wide-eyed awe is captured. There’s a carefully guarded naivety in the process, as if the hardest task of humanity – the returning to original mind – has been almost accomplished. Hanakata, in offering portraits of these animals, has offered a clear depiction of his own mind, and a soul that breezes through distractions.

Stuff like experimentation, or the discovery of a new sound are not the target here. Instead, what happens is a returning to self, or rather – a returning to self in process. Sat with these tracks long enough, especially “HIPPOPOTAMUS” and you can hear Masaki Hanakati playing ideas off each other – the ripples of one idea informing the shape of another. This isn’t about discovering new waters, it’s about reflecting on those which are ours. And it sounds utterly refreshing.

Keep an eye on Masaki Hanakata – he will never be big, because he’s too pure for that.

For “HIPPOPOTAMUS / PORT ELEPHANT” we award Masaki Hanakata three of four turns of the secret music-box key.





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