What does Koki Nakano sound like?
Elegant piano-based sound design for dreamers.
The review of Koki Nakano – Oceanic Feeling
When I think of the ocean and the music it makes I’m often taken back to the majestic piano of Enya or indeed the Manta Ray PS1 demo disc. I’m a geek, what can I say? The phrase Oceaning Feeling was coined by Romain Rolland in 1927. he described it as “the sensation of eternity, a feeling of being one with the external world as a whole”.
Koki Nakano has been playing the piano since he was three and he likens it to a dance. The idea that there’s “no sound without movement and no movement without sound” as Nakano says, means that music is a dance in of itself. When combined with an Oceanic Feeling, you have the body and the world around you working as one and it’s this that Koki Nakano wishes to express on his recent album “Oceanic Feeling”.
Across the albums eleven tracks, Nakano expresses this fluidity in movement in so many majestic and poetic ways. Sometimes it’s underwater clicks and sparks. Sometimes it’s a piano that stutters, flickers or transitions from note to tonal drifts. Other times it is in the swell and splash of strings and synths. You can have dramatic bass note riffs in “Mue” paired with glacial strings that feel epic like a whale. There’s the mechanic clumsiness of “Glances” where pianos spurt into spasms of collided notes over percussive splurges. Songs like “External Cephalic Version” take on a modular synth approach to piano playing. It is bombastic and exciting. I’m sure I can hear someone sneezing in the background too…
The scope of the sound design across the album is huge. Koki Nakano takes a breath and turns it into percussive whooshes during “Mirroring”. Tummy gargling synths become weird sound effects in “Hydrocode” as tuneful bleeps evoke water droplets around you. “Birth Canal” is a cascade of notes and metallic equipment as if the song itself is being birthed in front of your ears. It is hypnotic and evokes peristalsis as it rhythmically pushes you through its own musical tract. “Body Scan” is an odd ambient spoken word piece about the body that is like aggressive ASMR. Throughout all of this crazy sound design, the piano is central. Whilst there is some heavy experimentation, the actual melodic content of Koki Nakano’s work is beautiful and full of strong motifs you can hold onto.
“Oceanic Feeling” is one of the most surprising and inventive contemporary classical albums I’ve had the pleasure of listening to in the 2020s so far. Balancing some absolute madness with strong melodies, Koki Nakano has an experimental work of art. It also has an undertone of longing and ennui to it, balanced with distinct sensuality too. It’s like music and movement for grown-ups. If you are remotely interested in contemporary classical music and sound design – grab this now. You’ll feel more appreciative and connected to your body and the world around you after hearing it. A perfect ten for my ears.
Recommended track: Mue
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