Review Summary: Daisuke will continue to turn electronica heads with his latest exertions, but while 5 Dec. is an interesting and occasionally enjoyable album, the sacrifice of narrative for accessibity means it doesn't hold a candle to it's predecessor.
For those unacquainted with the work of critically acclaimed Japanese composer Kashiwa Daisuke: two things. One: Get acquainted. Now. Most importantly with his two-track masterpiece Program Music I
. The sixty minute sprawling epic unequivocally cemented his place in 2007 as one of the world’s most promising and exciting young electronica composers, and just one listen would explain why. You’d have to go a very long way and spend a worrying amount of time with your thesaurus before you could reach a level of hyperbole when describing Daisuke’s stunning opus. But I’m not here to review that record, so to continue... Two: 5 Dec.
is Kashiwa Daisuke’s latest effort and, while the Daisuke flair still exists within the record, the results here are very different to its predecessor. Besides squishing the song lengths down to more stomachable lengths, the Hiroshima-born artist adds a much greater sense of rhythm and urgency to his songs, dabbling even in the likes of trip-hop and rock to feed his new found craving for accessibility.
Does it work? Well that depends. In some ways, yes. The shorter track lengths are much less intimidating and are make the songs easier to digest. The songs themselves are undeniably more accessible; tracks like ‘Requiem’ see epic fight-scene-esque choir vocals squaring up to spastic blast beats and jazz bass in a showdown of exhilirating proportions. Later, ‘Black Lie, White Lie’ forces heads to bounce with dub-licious wobbly beats and gentle but unsettling piano work, topping it off with frantic chopped vocal samples and yet more guitar riff trickery. These, along with ‘Bogus Music’ and ‘Aqua Regia’, with their relentless, pulse-blowing beats and scratchy dissonance are not only thrilling, but also quite interesting. Then there are the tracks which bring your heart rate back down; the beautiful, intriguing fragility of ‘Broken Device’ and its capricious piano work is steeped in delicacy and innocence, while opener ‘Red Moon’ with its natural, inhale-exhale ambience and sporadic glitches is the soundtrack to a sleep which refuses to arrive. Not only are these songs easier to take in, but they also show Daisuke heading down previously untreaded paths, playing and fiddling with a huge range of new sounds and styles.
But something is missing amongst the swathes of new material. Program Music I had an overwhelming sense of narrative, and Daisuke was the master story-teller. He engrossed and captivated his listeners with unpredictable twists and turns tangled around a solid path of enveloping progression. With 5 Dec., this aspect of Daisuke takes a back seat, if a seat even exists for it. I’m hesitant to fully condemn it because the artist has structured his songs to link together with one another, and there is possibly an idea in Daisuke’s head of lightness and darkness which bonds the songs on 5 Dec. But if there is, the execution of it is nowhere near the level he’s capable of. In the long run, this will unfortunately force this album to the darkness of the back of the CD cabinet, because, while the record is thrilling and interesting, it’s obviously a thrill that will tire and an interest that will fade. The most appealing and exciting aspect of this young composer is his ability to close you off from everything material, envelop you in his own stunning world and give you the grand tour of a universe so beautiful you'll never want to leave. It’s a shame he couldn’t bring that to 5 Dec.
Daisuke has taken a few steps in a new direction with this record, searching for new sounds to add to his already impressive arsenal and, in many ways, he’s come back grinning. But on the other hand, 5 Dec. shows him making a sacrifice, venturing too far into the darkness in the pursuit of noise and, without his original shining brilliance to light the path, getting lost along the way. There’s no denying that 5 Dec. is exhilarating, intriguing, interesting, at times even mesmerising. But the endless captivation, the rapturously hypnotizing consummation
of Program Music I has all but vanished with 5 Dec., scattered in the sky and carried away by the wind like a choir’s chorus echoing across an empty chasm. Kashiwa Daisuke will have learned a lot from his latest exerts. Here’s hoping he can turn that experience into genuine electronic ingenuity with his next effort, fusing the accessibility and thrill of 5 Dec with the endless immersion of Program Music I. Luckily for him, there’s noone more suited to the task.