While his work is little known outside of his home country, Japanese composer / multi-instrumentalist Masahiro Sugaya has produced an impressively diverse range of music spanning from experimental composition through to jazz and New Age influences since the late 1980s.
While Sugaya hasn’t released an album of new material since 1994’s ‘The Bush Of Ghosts’, the current fascination with Japan’s bubble economy-era kankyō ongaku musical scene (as well as the high collector prices his original releases now command) mean that it’s a perfect time for this compilation ‘Horizon, Volume 1’, culled from Sugaya’s 1980s musical scores for experimental Tokyo theatre group Pappa Tarahumura, to appear.
After a brief opening segue that sees synthesised flutes repeating a playful melodic motif, ‘Future Green’ ushers in slow sparse kickdrums and delicately noodling keyboard sequences, the glittering electronics and glassy whooshes that slide back and forth between the speakers emphasising the sense of crystalline elegance. As with a lot of the kankyō ongaku-related music, there’s a focus on relaxing, laidback arrangements that flirt with both New Age and modern classical elements.
‘Straight Line Floating In The Sky’ almost suggests Philip Glass as cycling piano arrangements spiral in layers against twinkling bells and icy ambient electronics, in what’s easily one of this album’s most hypnotic moments.
‘Afternoon Of The Appearing Fish’ meanwhile ventures towards laidback cocktail lounge jazz as loose meandering piano arrangements merge with shimmering, mirage-like background synths, while elsewhere ‘Wind Conversation’ floats out into murmuring synthesised bass plucks and feathery acoustic guitar arrangements, the nimble melodic chords smoothly merging a folky and modern classical aesthetic into one seamless package. If you’re looking for an entry point into Sugaya’s eighties backcatalogue, ‘Horizon, Volume 1’ offers the perfect place.