Review Summary: Twilight away.
I may not be an astronomer, but I’ve learned enough to know that twilight is the period between day and night where the sun rests below the horizon but its light hasn’t yet disappeared from the sky. Though the word “twilight” often implies this period’s evening occurrence, there also exists a morning twilight, one where the start of a new day and its resurfacing light brings with it new hopes and possibilities. While that may be true, Haruka Nakamura sees no need to wait until the following dawn. In an interview with Tokafi, he says of this album’s concept, “I don’t think of sunset as a metaphor for late years. To me it’s rather a sign of something that occurs every day. Sunset is a precious time that exists because we’re moving towards tomorrow,” and it’s with this in mind that the Tokyo-based composer and pianist recorded his second album aptly titled Twilight
, a series of musical snapshots that to him represent the shrinking light of day routinely presenting a multitude of opportunities.
Nakamura doesn’t get too far ahead of himself, however. Twilight
stays rooted to the moment it’s named after, a brief and fleeting convergence of the day’s two halves. In photographs, the beauty of twilight often speaks for itself, and likewise, Nakamura’s effort throughout Twilight
is reined in and soft, conveying a lot while only using a little. His piano compositions are graceful and emotional but sparse and bare, placing just as much emphasis on silence or background ambience as his playing. “Evening Prayer,” for example, opens the record with delicate piano, slowly adding in ruffled drum brushing and fluttering woodwind instrumentation, moving at a relaxed, patient pace with little to no rush. Later, mid-record interlude “At the Veranda” showcases Nakamura at an even more minimal level, with only a faint saxophone crescendo occasionally slicing through his moving piano melody and the chirping of cicadas. Like these two, several of Twilight
’s other eleven tracks simply fizzle away with no conventional climax, as the sensations behind one slowly merge with those of the next, flickering in and out of focus between Nakamura’s piano and his comrades’ improvised instrumentation.
I suppose that’s the other vital thing to touch on; aside from some occasional later pieces like “Faraway” and “Twilight,” nearly all of the additional instrumentation on Twilight
was improvised with minimal supervision from Nakamura himself. It seems hard to believe in cases like “Harmonie du Soir” and “Music with a View,” both of which come across as far more meticulously composed than they apparently were. The former presents a slightly more upbeat and confident mingling of sax, piano, and percussion, while the latter climbs to one of the record’s more ambitious emotional peaks with only Nakamura’s piano and Rie Nemoto’s gorgeous violin accompaniment.
Between those two highlights comes a string of less optimistic but no less engrossing tracks. The aforementioned “At the Veranda” connects the crooning, longing saxophone of “Memoria” to the dreamy, rainy “Faraway,” one of the record’s few lengthier offerings. With a whispery, echoed vocal pattern and plopping keyboards, it stands as a welcome change in tone from the mood that the majority of Twilight
embraces while also not deviating too far away from the record’s thematic thread. The dissonant, uncertain chords of “Spectacle” and “Dialogo” complete Twilight
’s self-contained center of anxiety before the traces of sun return with its title track and “The Light,” one arguably the record’s opus, the other what Nakamura fittingly describes as “like a slow end title to a movie.” Though prominently featuring hypnotic plucked strings for the first and only times on the album, the show is absolutely stolen in these final few tracks by guest vocalists April Lee and Janis Crunch, whose melodies and deliveries are at once both lullaby-like and mesmerizing, closing off the record with two of its best songs.
How Nakamura and his fellow guest musicians were able to capture their visions of twilight here can only be considered a success, even if as a whole Twilight
could’ve benefited a little from some trimmed fat. Although they generally aid the flow of the record, “Yonder,” “By The Window,” “Dialogo,” and “Curtain Call” all fail to individually stand out. Some may also argue that “Faraway” and “Twilight” simply drag on too long without bringing forth any new ideas in their second halves, though for me, their appeal, much like that of the rest of the record, is in just soaking up all their momentary beauty. The same can be said about looking up at the sky during actual twilight too; it has the ability to completely command your attention or simply function as background scenery without losing any of its charm. Often opting for that same approach, Twilight
never tries to be something grander than it is, instead sacrificing specifics and bravado for an interpretable array of sounds, melodies, and the mental images they conjure. Whether your ears are attentive or preoccupied, the journey Nakamura encourages you to take through what he considers an everyday symbol of change is just as enjoyable as his music itself. Twilight