Review Summary: A sprawling, yet meticulously crafted masterpiece.
So I sit here on a lonely bus, looping around places both familiar and new. Buildings and trees pass by, however it goes unnoticed. I sit in a daze, as the melodies and soundscapes of "Stella" gently fade, entering into the infectious jazz filled intro "Write Once, Run Melos". It's both the perfect setting and mood to listen, yet at the same time so inopportune. You see, Kashiwa Daisuke's opus, Program Music I is both a serene manifesto and a chaotic barrage of musical fury. It's a sweeping score full of many moods and emotions, thus making it impossible to find the perfect time and place in which to listen. Regardless, it's a musical experience like no other.
Hiroshima born, Kashiwa Daisuke hails from the land of the rising sun. With a vast array of influences, Daisuke creates a very unique form of electronica. With heavy influences of neo-classical and post-rock, the music coalesces into something much greater. Yet Daisuke should not be so readily compared to World's End Girlfriend or any other of his contemporaries. Program Music I is an entity all it's own, very organic, yet painfully planned out. And that is what makes Program Music I work so well. It is as if Daisuke simply let it come into existence, while at the same time meticulously planning out each musical phrase. It's all very poetically played out, yet no words are ever spoken. It's both a wonderful musical experience and an enjoyable listen. All of it's in the eye of the beholder. Program Music I is whatever it is you would like it to be, a novelty, or a modern epic.
As a whole, the album is very musically diverse. However, it is very string heavy, consisting of piano, guitar, violin, and cello. Yet behind this is a solid electronic backbone. The album excels in this aspect. The electronica aspects are at the forefront, but demand very little. The melody is always at the center, leaving the "bleeps" and "static" to simply detail what is already there. This is where Kashiwa Daisuke's musically meticulous planning really becomes apparent. Everything just works so incredibly well, from the trickling of water in "Stella," to the haunting chorus towards the back half of "Write Once, Run Melos."
The album is split into two very distinct portions. "Stella" and "Write Once, Run Melos." Rather, these are not mere portions, but fully realized compositions. Program Music I is a sixty minute suite, separated by two exceptionally lengthy songs. Fortunately, Daisuke refrains from merely indulging into endless bouts of musical madness, and creates two, fully realized, and fully detailed pieces of music. The album's 800-pound gorilla takes form in "Stella." To put it simply, "Stella" is pure genius. It is a new standard for the genre, and a new height that may or may not be reached for years to come. It is a sprawling piece of composition, and Daisuke's indelible opus. Opening with a haunting piano melody, the song starts off very subdued. Intermittent sound effects of trains and laughter accompany the keyboard, all leading into the piano/acoustic guitar duet. Once again, the electronic influences are kept very tasteful, being used like an artist utilizes the brushstrokes of painting. Entering in later with the strings, "Stella" becomes a series of builds and climaxes. It's relentless. Even when things appear to be slowing down, the pace quickly picks back up. At times morose, while at other times incredibly felicitous, "Stella" is an incredibly capricious piece. The song encompasses countless moods and feelings, and can at times be a tad bit overwhelming. However, at thirty-five minutes, "Stella" still manages to seem aphoristic.
While Program Music I has made this reviewer spout on about mountainous soundscapes and emotional euphoria, the album is not perfect. While the purple prose and poetic writings may lead one to believe Program Music I is flawless, it simply is not true. "Write Once, Run Melos" simply cannot compare to "Stella." While the climax at about the four-minute mark is possibly my favorite moment of the album, the composition simply cannot stand against the preceding song. There is much less variety within the piece, and the electronics play a vastly larger role. The track keeps a very brisk pace, but lacks the emotional punch. However, that is not to say that it is in anyway not worth a listen. In fact, the track is fantastic. However, it was poorly placed, making an otherwise wonderful song seem like a mere afterthought.
Kashiwa Daisuke has crafted something special here. To some, it will be a novelty. Two very long, pretty songs, or a neo-classical album with some techno. However, for those who truly embrace it will find something indelibly unforgettable.