Review: Toshifumi Hinata - 'Broken Belief'
Broken Belief is the forthcoming release on Music From Memory, the label run by Jamie Tiller & Tako Reyenga out of Amsterdam. Co-compiled by Chee Shimizu, the record is comprised of a number of tracks recorded by respected contemporary Japanese musician Toshifumi Hinata between 1985 and 1987, which initially saw release across his first four records. A highly regarded composer, he studied at Berklee College of Music in Boston in the early ‘80s before returning home to Tokyo where he spent the majority of his career.
The ten tracks found on Broken Belief were originally recorded when Hinata set out to create an entire album using only a Prophet 5 and a LinnDrum, and although additional accompaniments were later recorded the resulting sparseness of the compositions gives them a dreamlike quality that accumulates over the course of the record. The ten tracks on Broken Belief explore an experimental marriage of ambient and Balearic sounds that don’t quite sit comfortably in either category, making it a perfect addition to the Music From Memory catalogue.
The first track on the record, Sarah’s Crime, sets the scene. An optimistic trip through downtempo ambience featuring heavenly pads and lethargic percussion, accompanied by an incredibly emotive violin section. A perfect introduction to the world of Hinata’s music, Sarah’s Crime demonstrates the charming sonic palate that is explored across the release. The following two tracks Midsummer Night and Atarashii Tuhbokumin continue to wander through the Hinata’s harmonious soundscapes, pervaded by rolling pads drenched in reverb and hypnotic, jazz infused Balearic rhythms. Completing the first side of the record is Ikoku No Onna Tachi, where synthetic voices and rising plucks are interspersed with melancholic piano sections to craft an emotional listening experience that rounds out the first half of the collection in a way that is both introspective and enjoyable.
The B side begins with a frenzied jazz piano taking centre stage on Pavement, a stark juxtaposition to the precisely lethargic atmosphere of the tracks found on the record’s first side. The feverish sense of urgency created by the piano is bolstered by a foreboding recording of a thunderstorm and church bells, before the track eventually eases back into the washing ambience of Colored Air. Heavily reverbed bells and uneasy synthesis linger throughout the short ambient composition, which is eventually swallowed up by the meandering elegance of Hikari to Mizu. Translating to ‘Light and Water’, the buoyant rhythm of the lead piano line and striking synthetic plucks paint a stunning aural image of rays of light spilling into a subaquatic utopia. Shinkiroh then chronicles the beginning of the journey back to the surface, through spirited ambient swells and piercing synthetic stabs.
Second to last on the record is the title track Broken Belief, which contains a superb balance of all the elements that make Toshifumi Hinata’s dreamy compositions so mesmerising. Sparse instrumentation is compensated for by vast reverb, subtle percussion and precise production that results in a beautiful otherworldly soundscape. Finally, Sayoka gently eases us out of the daydream that has cultivated over the course of the listening experience. Ecstatic percussion and breezy guitar accompany a delightful synthetic lead over the course of the jaunty five-minute finale that lands us back on planet Earth.
The works collected on Broken Belief are a charming example of the unique style of synth- pop being produced in Japan throughout the ‘70s and ‘80s, that frequently fused elements of ambient music, downtempo Balearic rhythms and jazz. A fitting addition to the Music From Memory catalogue, one of the most striking aspects of this compilation is the thoughtful, emotionally stimulating listening experience that it provides. Expansive journeys such as this are rarely found amidst the incoherence of today’s playlist culture, which is an accomplishment that is due in equal parts to the particular nature of the tracklist programming, and the captivating beauty of Toshifumi Hinata’s compositions.