I really like the sound of vibraphones. I also tend to really like the sounds of electronic music and of electro-acoustic experimentation. Relevantly enough, Masayoshi Fujita has, over his body of work released under the name of El Fog, succeeded in skilfully incorporating vibraphone-playing into his more electronically-focused ambient, glitch, dub and hip-hop-inflected compositions.
This release however, released under Fujita’s own name, consists of eight compositions that are free of the electronic manipulation and processing present in much of his other work and is also his first solo vibraphone release. Containing as it does approximately 47 minutes of mostly purely vibraphone-based music (with strings playing a subtle role in a couple of tracks), I was initially curious as to whether Stories would be able to sustain a listener’s interest for its entirety.
As it happens, I found the album particularly captivating in how Fujita, over the eight tracks, explores the versatility of the instrument, and the many vibes (I really am so very sorry) that the vibraphone can produce.
This versatility is most noticeable in the many ways demonstrated in which the instrument can resonate emotionally with a listener. This breadth is clear in the contrast between the rich, lively sound of the opening track ‘Deers’ and the deep, evocative minimalism of the album’s closer, ‘Memories of the Wind’. Similarly, this versatility is also made clear – to a lesser extent – in terms of what can be done on a more purely tonal, timbral level: on ‘Cloud’, the sounds coming from the single vibraphone sound more like the sounds of an ambient synthesizer patch (complete with tonnes of attack and sustain), and, on ‘River’, an increased sense of percussiveness is lent by Fujita’s use of some vaguely Cage-esque preparations.
Stories, then, is a spacious, cerebral yet emotional album that fascinatingly makes a lot out of a modest and minimalistic set-up; and an album that as well as appealing to people like me who really like the sound of vibraphones, should really resonate with fans of the ambient, ‘modern classical’ aesthetic of artists like Nils Frahm, Ólafur Arnalds and Hauschka.
Posted: Sat 16 February 2013