Various Artists
Kankyō Ongaku: Japanese Ambient, Environmental & New Age Music 1980–1990


4.0
excellent

Review

by Tb1114 USER (9 Reviews)
November 24th, 2019 | 18 replies


Release Date: 2019 | Tracklist

Review Summary: "I don't regard my life as insufficient. Inside the brushwood gate there is a moon; there are flowers." - Ryokan Taigu

“Children imitating cormorants
are even more wonderful
than cormorants.”

A poem by one of the Great Four haiku masters, Kobayashi Issa (1763-1828).

A poem of absolute delight, a poem of joy so innate it works across all culture.

The thing is, this isn't the 18th century. From where I'm writing from, Atlanta, this isn't Japan. This isn't even the 1980's, the decade which the music of “Kankyo Ongaku” was made. Yet, being one of the most surprisingly necessary releases of 2019, “Kankyo Ongaku” comes to us from a former era of Japan - comes to show us how contemporary the ageless meditative spirit is. Not unlike Issa’s poem.

Deeper yet into Issa’s haiku, it’s also not unlike us to love the human imitation of the absolute sublime; The human artistry which tries its best to hit the mark of nature without deviation, but inevitably ends up being a mere humble impression of that beyond us.

Imitation of the sublime is where our album, “Kankyo Ongaku,” rests. Looking back through the lens of 2019, the tech and electronics used on this album could be considered… cute. A different era of music, listening to these meditative odes brings to me a smile like that of watching a young child imitate a bird; In actuality, of course, the performance is nowhere near the mark. But the fact that human expression is capable of recognizing the immaculate, and capable of having nothing else but the desire to pay homage to it, is honestly hilarious - honestly wonderful!

We have tracks like “Praying For Mother / Earth,” laden with trickling streams and bird-chirps. “Variation III,” a New Age track backed by rhythmic waves and traditional Japanese percussion: Japanese percussion used in such a way us modern westerners might liken it to Tim Hecker’s Anoyo released earlier this year. You will find this traditional percussion used heavily throughout the album, as well as some simply wonderful sleepy-time high-chime keyboarding. Key-present tracks like “Blink,” “Umi No Sunatsubu,” and opener “Still Space” recall an innocent nostalgia from three or four decades prior; it’s almost the feel of backing music to an older, wholesome, top-down JRPG.

When approaching this album, one may look at the label “New Age” and, like me, wince with experienced prejudice against the generic backing music of countless meditation guides. If there’s anything I can guarantee to you about this album, it’s that it is such a higher cut above most New Age, and most general ambient-heads, like myself, will find a lot of material here that is both worthwhile and quite memorable.

“Since I left the household,
throwing myself into the world as it is,
I have erased all dates.
Yesterday I lived on a green mountain;
today I play in town.
More than one hundred pieces patch my robe.
A single bowl knows no years.
Leaning on my walking stick, I sing into the
clear night;
laying out a straw mat, I sleep under the moon.
Who says I don’t count?
This body of mine is just this.”

A poem by famous vagabond and Soto Zen Master, Ryokan Taigu (1758-1831).

Such as this poem, “Kankyo Ongaku” is a meditative expression of the natural spirit. Childlike in wonder (as were Ryokan and Issa), the album captures that spirit which knows no years. A various-artists collage of the era and region, it is composed of many patched, multidimensional pieces. After the initial novelty of this album’s existence, continual listening will unfold an erasure of all dates (The '80's? Huh?). The “Kankyo Ongaku” experience is of joy, introspection, contemplation, and the bare delights of human nature. Just lie back, and enjoy. I’m not promising anything mind-blowing, but I am promising something genuine.



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user ratings (30)
3.6
great

Comments:Add a Comment 
Tb1114
November 24th 2019


719 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Idk why the album art gave out as soon as I submitted this review. But I greatly enjoy this album, I hope others do too. I thought it'd be more popular on this site.

SandwichBubble
November 25th 2019


13787 Comments


Well I fixed the art, but I also asked for this to be moved to a Various Artists page.
So you're welcome I think.

sixdegrees
November 25th 2019


13127 Comments


youre doing good work

ramon.
November 25th 2019


4174 Comments


Oooo glad this got a review. I've listened to Glass Chattering more times than I'm willing to admit. Really lovely stuff on here. I'm impressed it feels as cohesive as it does.

oltnabrick
November 25th 2019


40610 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

thump ub

luci
November 25th 2019


12844 Comments


thanks for covering this. often start my morning with japanese ambient/new age... hiroshi yoshimura especially, "blink" is my fav piece here

GhandhiLion
November 25th 2019


17626 Comments


Damn Various Artists. Slow down with the albums will ya?

SandwichBubble
November 25th 2019


13787 Comments


Move over Bull of Heaven

ramon.
November 25th 2019


4174 Comments


Various Artists is soon to knock Feat. into the loser's bracket.

Tb1114
November 25th 2019


719 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Blink's amazing. Gotta check out the rest of Hiroshi's stuff

Winesburgohio
Staff Reviewer
November 26th 2019


3864 Comments


yay review!!!! great haiku to choose too, one of my favourites 8 )

Tb1114
November 26th 2019


719 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Ty ty! That & the Ryokan summary quote are two of my all time favorite poems

dbizzles
November 30th 2019


15184 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

This was very nice. Thank you for spotlighting it.

Flugmorph
October 16th 2020


33265 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

real good ambient

dedex
Staff Reviewer
January 21st 2021


12696 Comments

Album Rating: 3.7 | Sound Off

aye never saw this got a rev, nice job

zelenichajnik
January 21st 2021


624 Comments


Oh shit, nor had I. Lovely album, soundtracked a lot of walks in 2019. I love Glass Chattering.

porcupinetheater
February 15th 2021


10981 Comments


This going to be perfect for tonight's sundown snowy-vista walk can't wait

parksungjoon
February 15th 2021


46886 Comments


cool



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