Review Summary: Hard a'starboardFluid And Dreaming Of Stripes
is an album of detached longing. Amidst the soft static and hums is a sole instrument, with no tempo or direction - lost. It is music best served to periods of aimless thoughts, with a subconscious desire to veer towards something, anything. Japanese composer Masaya Ozaki employs a minimalistic approach, using a piano, guitar, ukulele, or synthesizer to invoke unwavering calmness, yet inserts hints of uncertainty. If the title is any indication, Ozaki’s full-length debut is a slowly careening vessel trying to correct its course, but inching the wheel ever so slowly, almost indifferently. It’s as though you’re skydiving in slow motion, with fifty minutes to spare and only a few adjustments needed to hit your mark. It mirrors my own motivation in its present state: I have goals - important ones - but I’m moseying towards them, willfully ignorant of any consequences, and spoiled with comfort and faux-serenity. It’s a state of mind I’ve slipped into as a coping mechanism for disappointment. I’m sick of minor failures, but not to the point of abandoning goals entirely.
The compositions seem to parallel this thought process; they're largely at peace, yet ridden with minor worries, which are glazed over with grainy textures and tape loops. Opener “Uprooted Space” utilizes subtle piano melodies bolstered with soft, lambent tones, putting the listener at ease; yet, there is still a trace of yearning. As the song progresses, it’s a desire for those fleeting notes, scattered almost at random. It’s a piece reliant on the effectiveness of extended breaks, accentuating these notes tenfold. “Ceaselessly” features tactful electroacoustics, coinciding beautifully with a misshapen ukulele. Ozaki’s instruments are diverse, but utilize similar techniques, pairing random rhythms with slow, enveloping melodies. “In Transit” is the most subtle track on the album, with a cloudy ambience so frail, a small gust of wind might dissipate it. Layers of tape segments give the song a faint stutter, and the song progresses little by little. The titular closing track is somber, with a hollow tone and a warped, gloomy melody. The lo-fi aura is as fuzzy as the thoughts pervading it, as the piano yearns for structure and certainty, but is awash with doubts. Every track is thematically similar, but distinct in tone - even if only slightly - and the closer is notably dark.
concludes, the sense of longing isn’t what it used to be. I no longer find myself detached; rather, I want the background noises to drown me in cacophony. I want
the piano to erupt, gaining cadence and passion rather than lumbering along cautiously. It makes me empathetic, casting my own sensibilities into the barren soundscape. Masaya Ozaki has crafted sparse beauty, allowing self-reflection to fill the negative spaces.