The Man Who Stole the World
In storytelling, to build a world is to set the boundaries of a shapeless void. Writers set out to fill that vast emptiness with natural laws, intricate systems that interact with one another and organize the stories of their inhabitants.
Some worlds are rooted in fantasy, while others are more grounded in the annals of history. Komachi, the new album from Hiroshima-based producer Meitei, draws heavily from both of these notions, resulting in sonic landscapes that are as indebted to J. Dilla and Steve Reich as they are to East Asian instrumentation and noted Japanese producers like Susumu Yokota.
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Crafted with the stated mission of recapturing what he describes as a “lost Japanese mood,” the tracks on Meitei’s latest release were inspired by the recent loss of his 99-year-old grandmother.
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The album derives its title from Ono no Komachi, the eighth century waka poet whose mythical beauty and profoundly wistful writing earned her countless suitors and elevated her to the stuff of legend.
Beauty manifests in many forms throughout Komachi. Gone are the ghost stories of Meitei’s 2018 release Kwaidan, which were conveyed via raspy spoken-word fragments and gloaming ambience. In their stead are brighter peals, intricately woven with traditional Japanese percussion.
Field recordings and the familiar warmth of tape hiss are still present but rarely oppressive, providing a naturalistic undercurrent throughout. Some songs, such as “Chouchin,” sound as if Meitei lifted fragments from an ancient dream and laid them out across the 16 pads of a modern-day MPC beat machine.