Chihei Hatakeyama’s music doesn’t change radically from one release to the next, yet that doesn’t prevent it from making a strong impression each time a new set materializes, whether it be on kranky, Room 40, Hibernate, or Home Normal, to cite a small number of the labels on which his music has appeared. And though it lodges itself comfortably within the ambient-drone soundscaping genre, Hatakeyama’s sound is so distinctive and personalized that it’s always immediately identifiable as his and his alone. This latest collection, recorded in various locations between 2008 and 2012 and the premiere release on the Japan-based Small Fragments label, is as fine a representation of Hatakeyama’s work and style as one might wish to find.
The hour-long Norma features six pieces, two of them fleeting vignettes (“Rigel,” “Betelgeuse”) but two others meditations that unfold with becalmed deliberation for twenty minutes at a time. “Benetnasch” breathes peacefully for twenty-one minutes, its slumber punctuated by whistling washes of glimmering, high-pitched tones and other interruptive sounds, most of them so subtly woven into the mix when they arise they could go unnoticed. The other long-form setting, “Merak,” cultivates an even more placid and ethereal aura in its slow-motion, cloud-like drift. By comparison, “Mizar” is slightly blurrier, as if its suspended guitar flickers and organ-like tones are being diffused through a translucent scrim, while nature-based field recordings figure more prominently in the brief, Nakano-recorded “Rigel” and “Betelgeuse.” Though no instrumentation is listed on the release (aside from a note relating to electric guitar), the Tokyo-based sound artist is known for producing work using electric guitar, vibraphone, piano, and field recordings as sound sources and for using software to shape the material, much as does in this case, into softly glistening streams of serenading splendour.