Review Summary: A soothing ambient journey...
Chihei Hatakeyama is a prolific Japanese drone/ambient musician and producer that established himself in the underground scene through diverse releases, ranging from dreamy to glacial sound scapes, as well as more abrasive, haunting experiments. Using his guitar and synthesizers as the basis, the man processes them on the computer to achieve different tones or layers them to build a wall of sound. The Void
series, especially the latest installments, have focused on a warm, subdued direction which is very rewarding, especially when you want to unwind.
On Void XI
there is only one track, 'Fade to Feedback', divided in two pieces. The first 40 minutes start with a lovely synth pad joined early on by sparse guitar leads. Drenched in echo and reverb, they meld, forming one lush sound that beautifully drifts along. The instruments' prominence alternates, while also punctuating the bass from time to time to enhance the track's impact. During the second half of this gentle epic, Chihei plays with the volumes, so that one minute it feels like he's performing in your room and the other 50 meters away. The process is interesting, since it keeps you attentive without disturbing the peaceful atmosphere. Meanwhile, the 2nd part (22 minutes) is slightly sharper in tone as Hatakeyama combines piano notes and slightly poignant droning synths. Still, it doesn't stray away in sound, maintaining the overall mood throughout. As the piano sinks under the latter's low notes, it's like a rather disappointing reminder you're about to end this pleasant journey.
In the end, much like the entire ambient genre, it requires some patience or the right moment to sink in. Whether you use it as background music, a main way to relax or sleep, it still depends on which type of sounds your ear finds soothing/relaxing. For those who want a nice, comforting album without odd detours or dark industrial noises, Void XI
should be a great listen. Nevertheless, if you look for more drastic changes from one track to another, you'll find it harder to digest.