Review Summary: Though it plucks the heart strings like everything else he's done, Program Music II tragically shows Daisuke at his most phoned-in.Program Music II
feels as if it’s born out of an existential crisis, forced into being by the unwarranted comparisons to Kashiwa Daisuke’s 2007 masterpiece that his later material has consistently been hampered by. You can almost hear Daisuke muttering as he brainstorms for material, “you want another Program Music
? Here, have it”. Never mind that Program Music I
’s very title implied the advent of a sequel, it just seems so unlike him
that said sequel has even come to fruition, given his unwaveringly blithe line of action. The problem is that Program Music II
doesn’t come across as a true successor in terms of intent or quality. Worse still, it feels like Daisuke on auto-pilot, however lovely it might be to listen to.
The opening motif on “Crystal Valley” sounds like a minor alteration of the one from Re:
’s version of “Deep Blue”, and while the songs unfold in ways completely unlike each other, you can’t help but get the impression that Daisuke is resting upon his laurels a bit. Not that Program Music II
is without its moments, of course; “City in The Lake” is the only song that is more comparable to “Write Once, Run Melos” than to “Stella”, and as a result is by far the most distinguished. It somehow finds an accord between Daisuke’s touching piano and violin work and his upbeat jazz rhythms, featuring a plethora of dynamic shifts that induce an emotional dichotomy of sorts. “Airport” and “Subaru” are similarly broad in scope, although they differ in their means. The former has an arpeggiated prop around which a swathe of strings and percussion flares up and subsides, while the latter is more in line with “City in the Lake”, revelling in its contrasts amid colour and form. However, songs like “Blue Beryl” and “Like a Starhead” are devoid of impetus, doing little if anything to stand out or even tie together the songs that bookend them. Even “Meteor”, with its lush crescendos and nuanced percussion, is a little too cyclical to leave a proper lasting impression.
The filler-esque quality of these tracks – and the vagueness of this album’s purpose, by extension – can be put down to one thing: the total absence of impulse whether via glitches, breaks or even real-world samples. Program Music I
isn’t revered for simply being “beautiful”, because it was Daisuke operating at his freest. He took otherwise fine arrangements, tore them up without a care, and with the remnants constructed something far in excess of what their intact forms could have ever hoped to be. Program Music II
on the other hand lacks that spontaneity, that lack of limitation, and for that reason its apparent status as the original’s heir is a mystery to me.