Review Summary: An album for all seasons.
The number of mundane experiences one can remember with absolute clarity simply because of music is often astounding. Personally speaking, the ability to slot an album into the daily humdrum is extremely important, as a huge portion of my music listening isn’t done from the comfort of my own home. It’s caught somewhere between different pieces of my everyday life; the walls of the uni library, city lights, noisy train commuters, the grocery store at midnight – the point is that most albums aren’t suited to a wide range of activities. This is what makes an album like Departure
special, an album that epitomizes formlessness. The composers have created a faceless friend that is able to stand with you anywhere you go; offering you no direction or drive, but simply existing for the purpose of companionship. It’s a blank canvas, and it’s the listener’s job to fill it in.
The release is split between the two artists involved, with Nujabes taking the first half and Fat Jon taking the latter portion of the album. While the entirety is stylistically similar to Nujabes instrumental hip-hop, comparisons to past albums should be avoided. His full length albums relied largely on experimentation and ebbing from natural highs to lows, while Departure
is homogeneous to an extreme degree. Dividing the release down the middle would ordinarily result in a split personality, either too top-heavy or bottom-heavy to succeed as a cohesive statement. However, here we find two artists totally at peace with what they set out to accomplish – an infectious feeling that pervades the atmosphere and attracts even the most reserved listener. Compared to other soundtracks in the series, like the varied and creative Impression
or the driving and clunky Masta
plays the role of the mature older brother. It’s in no rush to get anywhere, and has nothing to prove – the older brother simply does what he does best, in his own time, and we wouldn’t ask for anything else.
While the cascading guitar lines of ‘Aruarian Dance’ and the percussionless ‘Mystline’ are some of the highlights of Nujabes’ entire body of work, they don’t really do
anything. Even Fat Jon’s eclectic mix of styles, exemplified in the creeping ‘Ask’ and upbeat ‘Funkin’, feels perfectly in sync with the rest of the album. The entire run between bookends is an escapist’s dream – a world without words, but this careful synergy is what makes the opener such a tricky task, and where the distinction between an album and a soundtrack damages Departure
as a standalone piece of music. ‘Battlecry’ is offbeat, driving hip-hop with a purpose, acting as the antithesis to everything else found in this package; however it is a necessary opening track given its importance in the series. ‘Shiki no Uta(Song of the Seasons)’ on the other hand, is a perfectly suited close to the album despite being the only other song featuring vocals. It’s a derivative built from ‘Beat Laments the World’, being perfectly content to wander around the driving beat while resting on the more comfortable grooves to captivate the listener. It ends the album on a simple note, but that’s perfect for a simple album.
Maybe I’m not the right person to review this. As soon as the album begins to play, I get lost in this summer daze and become overwhelmed by the memories attached to it. Not great times, not bad experiences, just…. Memories. Pointless, simple moments that are imprinted indelibly on my mind solely because of the music that played at the time. Critical examination becomes impossible when a certain degree of nostalgia is attached, but in retrospect, maybe that makes me exactly the sort of person that should review it. This album was never intended for the foreground, it’s a soundtrack, and it’s designed for someone’s adventures. Notwithstanding how many times I’ve watched the show in question, these songs aren’t an accompaniment to the escapades of Jin, Mugen and Fuu anymore - the music is mine, it’s something I’ve made my own, and it feels like that’s what the artists had always intended.