Review Summary: the warmth of the air on a summer day
The familiar sound of a cocktail shaker full of ice and the sound of distant seagulls give way to a simple, catchy melody and a lazy, carefree rythm. The first 15 seconds of Pacific, recorded in 1978 by Haruomi “Harry” Hosono (of Yellow Magic Orchestra) with collaboration of Shigeru Susuki and Tatsuro Yamashita tell you everything you need to know about what’s to come in the next 38 minutes.
Saigo no Rauken (Hosono), the opening track, starts off with a wide open smile, a big drink on one hand and ready to spend a long day slacking off at the beach. Later on the day come the more nocturnal yet still innocent textures of Coral Reef (Susuki), that remind me of a night at the docks of a small sea town. Back at the beach, but with a much more nostalgic tone comes Nostalgia of Island Pt 1: Bird Wind (Yamashita). As an old day dies and a new one is born, with the rising sun starts Pt 2: Walking on the Beach, with a new found energy and a new found hangover. That’s easily fixed, though: Just a Little sun, a cool sea breeze and the uplifting happy-go-lucky charm of this track, the crowning achievement of the album, if you ask me.
After an acoustic detour to reconnect with nature and contemplate the local flora’s beauty with Slack Key Rumba (Hosono), we’re ready to submerge back into the night, this time with the company of the triumphant and sensual tropical/disco sounds of Passion Flower (Susuki), foreshadowing a night of (or at least a night in persue of) summer love. Next, and following this structure of lazy beach day > night out > nostalgic after-party, comes Noanoa (Susuki again), a Little bit more generic, but still pleasing. Kiska (Yamashita), is another composition that lacks the emotional immediacy of the other tracks, but indulges on small instrumental technicalities that make it stand out. Album closes off with Cosmic Surfing (Hosono) the track most different from the others texture-wise, with its electronic-only instrumentation, fat synths and driving beat that feel like a speedboat cruising through the waves.
As strongly focused as it is, it’s hard to find thematic issues on this album. Instrumental-only, each track has a different composer who brings his own distinct flavor to the mix, without deviating much from the record’s set thematic and tone. Every track fits solidly on the whole of the narrative but can stand as solidly on its own without context, which further proves the genius of the three main composers at creating emotionally immediate melodies and textures, efficient at the time of constructing an idyllic summer atmosphere that, freed from the obligation of telling a ‘story’, can focus 100% on painting an extremely detailed scene with the limited resources at their dispposal.
A work of rare conceptual clarity, master management of composition and instrumentation that doesn’t need to prove anything, fully confident in its own capability.
Simply one of the chillest albums you’ll listen to in your life.