Review Summary: Something something sophomore whatever
Hakushi Hasegawa’s 2019 debut Air Ni Ni
was a startling and striking kaleidoscope of jazz, pop and psychedelic sounds pulled off with kinetic flair that catered to attention spans of all shapes and sizes. It was a refreshing surprise, but its variety of ideas and intensity of performance was so dense that coming to terms with its 10-song tracklist was a demanding enough prospect in itself; considerations of how a follow-up record might pan out seemed very much secondary. Hasegawa seemed content to cruise onwards off the back of that album’s modest viral success, boosted by a slot on Porter Robinson’s virtual, mid-quarantine Secret Sky festival; he was clearly in his stride, and it was something of a surprise to see a new record appear under his name when his debut had been so recently released and, one would think, so taxing for his inspiration. All sorts of can he really do it again?
and why so soon?
uncertainties surfaced in a hurry.
In his own unphased way, Hasegawa opted to sidestep the misgivings and the general prospect of a sophomore slump with a short covers album, more relaxed but just as innovative as his ultra-busy debut. Bones of Dreams Attacked!
is less a fireworks display and more a personable chillout; it shows his style off in a mellower but no less distinct light, proving his versatility and demonstrating an impressive amount of assurance of his sound as he traverses a broad cross-section of the Japanese indieverse. His choice of artists is appropriately eclectic, unpredictable, and, in its own way, cogent: we get a handful of numbers from scene veterans (Soutaisei Riron, Sakanaction, Sambomaster) played alongside more recent emergent artists (Soushi Sakiyama , んoon), with the Aladdin theme and one original thrown in for good measure.
It’s a curious roster and Hasegawa appropriates it creatively, carefully integrating his style into each track and drastically repurposing the tone of the original. This is particularly evident in his take on Soutaisei Riron’s “Love Zukkyun”, the pithiest number here. Soutaisei Riron’s frontwoman Etsuko Yakushimaru is renowned for her daydreamy vocal manner, her whimsical inflections almost conversational as she muses her way through evasive lyrics and quaint indie pop arrangements. It’s a far cry from Hasegawa’s often frenetic manner, and he seems to take an active delight in inverting everything that made the original such an effortlessly breezy listen into a succinct freakhouse that could never have come from anyone else. His signature chromatics are all over the shop, chopping and skewing the track’s originally straightforward rock progression into a staccato jitterfest. Under a higher tempo, Yakushimaru’s sigh-prone style comes across as outright breathlessness as Hasegawa’s hurried, exaggerated falsetto on the chorus line loses itself mid-breath in an effort feels like a wry parody, an affectionate nod to Yakushimaru’s affectation that comes off as jauntily good natured and a little ridiculous.
On the other hand, the Sakiyama cover “Tabino Nakade” and his surprisingly fragile revision of Sakanaction’s superbanger “1000 & 0” both show off a more vulnerable, reflective tone than anything we heard on Air Ni Ni
. The latter in particular is a soft triumph, winding back the original’s coursing energy and buzzing hooks and finding a surprisingly moving voicing for its once momentous chorus. The sole original “Sea Change” takes this feeling in its stride, offering something gentle and more conventionally melodic than whatever we may have assumed Hasegawa’s staple sound to be; his keyboard mastery is as convincing as his strength as a quirky songwriter here.
Above all else, this release is tactful. Hakushi Hasegawa is in many ways uncompromising when it comes to preserving his idiosyncrasies, but he is accommodating and versatile in the way he presents them. Air Ni Ni
was in many ways an overwhelming experience, and Hasegawa seems content to leave that one’s sound to speak for itself rather than trying to recreate it so soon. Bones of Dreams Attacked!
is a refreshing palette cleanser that showcases his softer side while re-posing the question of what his full creative potential may be. Air Ni Ni
once seemed like an open-closed answer to this; as things are, we’ll have to wait a little longer to find out…