High octave piano cuteness moving into serene beauty.
Kumi Takahara’s ‘See-through’ is one of the lightest and airy albums I’ve listened to this year. A mixture of piano, synth, violin and occasionally other effects and her own voice – the album is also a wonderful showcase of transitioning between two emotions. The first is cute ethereality. The second is vast majesty. Both are tied by the one constant throughout the album – the sea.
The violin plays a central role as that’s Kumi Takahara’s primary instrument of choice. Although she uses her voice occasionally such as the playful ‘Ditty’, which could score any light novel adaptation with ease, it’s the violin that expresses emotions the most. ‘Nostalgia’ and ‘Artegio’ use the instrument as a pastel drone early on and layer it into various seaside noises. Bike spokes, plinky pianos, birdsong and distant industry play key roles in making up the noise. The music has a playful innocence to it, almost like a reciting of early arpeggios of learning the piano. The violin also has a thin Celtic vibe too.
As the album progresses Kumi Takahara filters out the high octave plinks and cuteness for a sense of reflection. The sea, its waves and its soundscapes are all still present. The violin takes on a fuller sound too. The final trio of tracks ‘Sea’, ‘Tide’ and ‘Log’ take up the second half of the album and have a post-classical feel to them. The feeling of vastness is conveyed through the hazy warm tape recordings and the underscore of water sounds until the violin. ‘Tide’ especially is has a swelling heart and drama to it. ‘Log’ even move towards a post-rock drone with distant percussion and light guitars seeping in.
Feminine, airy, playful and at times emotional, Kumi Takahara has made a hidden gem in the ambient classical genre. She never quite delivers absolutely all the hooks and melodic phrases to give you everything on a plate. That might annoy some listeners but I find that when it is done right, it opens your imagination up further. Kumi balances that ethereal curiosity nicely and it makes ‘See-through’ anything but.
Recommended track: Tide
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