The Lost Japanese Mood of Meitei’s “Komachi”

Loss, simply put, is a multifaceted concept. The loss of one thing or one person can serve as a trigger for the realization of an even greater loss. Such is the case on “Komachi”.

Released by Hiroshima-based producer Daisuke Fujita under his alias Meitei earlier this year in March via Métron Records, “Komachi” follows up his 2018 effort “Kwaidan”. The title refers to traditional Japanese folk stories that focused more on atmosphere than gruesome elements of most modern horror. With a sonic landscape featuring quiet field recordings, stark melodic content, and warbled spoken word snipped appear and vanishing out of nowhere, it certainly lived up to its name.

Meitei – Kwaidan
(via Evening Chants)

On “Komachi” Fujita returns with a different mindset.

Following the passing of his 99-year-old grandmother, a woman he viewed as one of the few people to truly have experienced and understood traditional Japanese ambience, he set out to capture that feel of that time on record. According to the Bandcamp page for this release, “His music and art is driven by a desire to cast light on an era and aesthetic that he believes is drifting out of the collective Japanese consciousness with each passing generation, what he calls ‘the lost Japanese mood.’”

This “lost Japanese mood” includes aspects of Fujita’s younger life, of times spent with his grandmother. As detailed in his conversation with The Japan Times, elements as simple as storing food underground, having to light a fire to take a bath, and using a bathroom separate from the house are parts of the mood.

Still, the record isn’t meant to malign the lessening importance of the old Japanese culture. It’s more of a curation.

2018’s “Kwaidan” certainly contained some sense of the spirit of old Japan, and there’s some overlap musically between the two records, but “Komachi” has a far more head on approach.

Meitei – Komachi
(via Métron Records)

Tape loops and field recordings return, albeit in a more euphonious manner. They’re no longer contributing to an aura of trepidation, but now strengthening the sense of times past spent in nature. Audio from water is a common thread throughout the record, notably on austere opener “Seto”. Other field recordings are hidden away in the mix, like the croaking of frogs in “Maboroshi”, a layer to the track I didn’t even notice until about my third listen.

The otherworldly vocal samples of “Kwaidan” often became intertwined with the background of the songs, providing the rhythmic center of songs like the deeply unsettling “Touba”. On “Komachi”, drums taken from Japanese classical music, like gagaku, fill that niche.

Gagaku, the oldest form of classical music in Japan, was once reserved the Imperial Court in Kyoto, where the nation was ruled. The ceremonial music is still performed, but like the rest of the “lost Japanese mood,” it’s lost significance in the modern world.

Small kakko drums turn up on the song “Ike”, and although they’re used sparingly, they ground the ethereal track as it crawls along. Mallet percussion sweeps through “Nami”, nimbly navigating between piano, large dadaiko drums, creaky tape sounds, and the motif of waves crashing returning.

The mallets take centerstage on “Chouchin”, occasionally interrupted by the stabs of soft synth notes. Though the strings sampled on “Kawanbe Kyosai [Pt.I]” are hushed among the rest of the busy track, the echo added to them provides some of the most interesting sonic textures on the record.

Shinkai” is feels uniquely modern among the rest of the record. With a reverbed piano line serving as the main focus, the off-kilter heartbeat-sounding percussion below makes this song sound like it turn up on an infamous YouTube stream, albeit more skillfully crafted.

According to Fujita, Japan’s soul is still around sleeping in the darkness. The soul fades into obscurity “when a populace has no interest.” The blend of the centuries old classical and modern ambient on “Komachi” allows him to not only stake his claim as a producer to watch out for, but also a steward of the “lost Japanese mood.”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s