last modified Feb 03 2008
7. Hats-Off to A.M.
Suzuki Junzo Pieces for Hidden Circles
Japaneses singer/guitar player Suzuki Junzo (Astral Travelling Unity, 20 Guilders, Overhang Party, Miminokoto) weaves an improvised country blues/folk music with touches of acid and psych. While performing and recording mostly as a solo artist, he has collaborated with Hiroshi Hasegawa, Tabata Mitsuru and Kawabata Makoto. Pieces for Hidden Circles is a recording of the highest order evoking spirituality and devotion unrivaled. A campaign to a world of solitude, each footfall and gust of wind resonating to the heavens.
Compared to the other releases in the ARC series, Junzo's work stands out as being one that is very different in style and approach. Rather than seeming overly experimental or esoteric, it instead goes for an acid tinged psychedelic approach to folk and blues that still manages to convey its own sound. It isn't as dark as some of the previous discs in the series, so it would seem that it ARC releases are ending on a slightly brighter note. However, there is a great deal of emotion and passion felt in the minimal guitar strums and chords.
This album as a whole is simple guitar playing?no heavily duty processing, no NASA like battery of effects, no band, no vocals?just Junzo and his Gibson. For that reason alone there is a certain consistent feel to the tracks that some may find repetitive, but I personally think it adds to the intimacy. I feel as if I'm in the room as he's playing these songs to me. The opening and ending tracks, "Shadows-Lights" and "Lights-Shadows" are appropriately cut from the same cloth: somewhat folky pieces that feel very loose and occasionally get almost percussive in nature, but always remain melodic.
There is a constant feeling of shifting and changing emotions from track to track. "Lost Chords" has a decidedly sad, melancholic sound to it throughout its gentle, sad strums. However, the mood quickly uplifts for the next track, "Ameria," which is much more upbeat with a rapid, free jazz tempo to it that could quickly lift both mood and spirits. Even the blues get a nod on "Circles for Vibrolux," which take the loping, staccato riff style associated with the early blues artists and recontextualizes it into a psychedelic electric sound.
The biggest change is in the sprawling "Hats Off to A.M." which, clocking in at over 16 minutes, is by far the longest track on here. This is the only time that there is actually the feel that this is a studio recording, because the track does have some inkling of effects or processing. Never to an extent that it no longer feels like a guitar recording, but there is some obvious effects used to create the long, violin like drones of guitar tone that permeate the mix. As a whole it is a very subtle, engaging piece that feels warm and inviting, but never manages to sink fully into the background with its subtlety.
Pieces for Hidden Circles is an odd beast amongst a world that is usually more focused in darkness and the morose. It is instead an album that feels very warm, spiritual and inviting. With only his guitar, Junzo creates an intimate setting that draws the listener in, and even though it remains relatively Spartan throughout, it is never anything but captivating.
There's undoubtedly a hint of psych within much of the album, and with the help of Suzuki's preference for treble, it's of the spiky and nervous variety. The album's greatest detour and longest track, is Hats Off to A.M., a 17 minute drone piece adorned with quiet guitar notes. It's difficult to tell how the drone was created, but it is assumed that it was done on the ES335, since that's the only instrument credited on the sleeve. It's an impressionistic, peaceful, calming, perhaps even hopeful piece of music which somehow manages to pull all of the disparate explorations, before and after it, together. As a whole, Pieces for Hidden Circles is deceptively simple on the surface, yet the big picture reveals a nuanced, fine piece of art.
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Last Updated Feb 20 2009
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