H.Takahashi – Raum (2017)
During the mid 1950’s, within the early gestures of the Situationist International, Guy Debord began to examine the effects of the geographical environment – particularly the urban landscape, on the emotions and behavior of those who occupied it. Over the years, this study and discipline, with the practice of intervention which sprang from it, came to be referred to as psychogeography – largely embraced, furthered, and brought into the cultural consciousness by a group of English writers – Iain Sinclair, Peter Ackroyd, Stewart Home, Will Self, etc. On paper, psychogeography can sound like heady, pretentious stuff, but, as with so much of what Debord and the S.I. introduced, it’s far more playful and intuitive than it first appears. For most of those who practice it, it is simply an excuse to walk and learn – effectively recognizing that history occupies the present – through building, city planning, etc, and these things have an effect on our lives and state of mind. Rather accepting this reality passively, it examines it head on, attempting to know, learn, and celebrate the imprints and effect of human intervention within the geographic – however recent, discrete, or seemingly insignificant.
Because the the discipline of psychogeography has largely been pursued by writers in Paris and London – ancient urban centers, the nature of its realizations have mostly focused on the historic, and have been fairly explicit, in the way that text often lends itself to be. Elements of its more poetic and abstract potential have been explored by film makers like Chris Marker, Alain Robbe-Grillet, and Peter Peter Greenaway, and fine-artists like Alighiero Boetti, Stephen Willetts, Francis Alys, and Julie Mehretu, but, in most cases, the results have been the product of an indirect and filtered influence, rather than a direct or adoptive approach. Fascinatingly, while it might seem an obvious choice, psychogeography has remained largely unexplored within the territories and creative practices of sound. In such a case, what is important to remember, is that psychogeography is not about what is – it is not a documentary pursuit, but rather about the effects of what is upon us, thus field recording isn’t an ideal choice. While music is almost always physiological, and deals with the imprints of culture and geography, it rarely addresses the physiological effects of culture’s imprint on geography – the sustained conversation with others, through spaces and across time. While perhaps not a conscious or direct application of psychogeography, this is exactly what Raum, H.Takahashi’s latest LP on Where to Now Records, faces head on.
In an era so heavily marked by hindsight and nostalgia, part of what makes Raum so remarkable and special, is that it couldn’t have been made at any point other than now – a beautiful dichotomy when viewed through the standing paradigm of psychogeography. H.Takahashi is a Tokyo based architect, sound designer, and musician. His first solo releases appeared back in 2015, as the second installment of Where to Now’s Where To Be series, followed by a handful of cassettes on a number of labels, over the period since. While technology plays an important role in Takahashi’s work, it is important to recognize what it activates, rather than becoming caught what it is – an iPhone. What has historically maintained a barrier between music and the physiological effects of geography, is technology – grounding it within a studio, or more recently the home. While mobile recording devices have existed for years, an important component of psychogeography is movement – the flâneur. It’s not easy to be in the landscape, open yourself to it, while paying and recording. This is exactly what the iPhone has allowed, being an incredibly mobile musical instrument and recording device, all in one.
Raum was entirely recorded on Takahashi’s iPhone, across the city of Tokyo – in the streets, cafes, parks, offices, and on the subway, etc. It’s bubbling textures, ambiences, and tones rise as a mediation on the relationship between sound and its environment – their power, when joined, to alter and expand the listeners relationship to both – music as a lens, where the abstract snaps into focus, before drifting out of view. Aesthetically aligned with electronic Minimalism, Raum takes the standard methodologies a step forward, filtering time, history, and the now, placed in the shadow of looming architecture, to sculpt a reflective internal world – a mirrored sonic space. It is the product of a rapid paced reality, and of an artist, constantly on the move, making its stillness, with the careful placements of its elements, feel as incongruous as pitch perfect.
For all its simplicity, Raum is incredibly elegant and complex, taking the potentials a music into spaces that they have rarely strayed. It is world to be occupied, through which we might gain further understandings about the one in which we normally exist. It’s hard to find enough good things to say about this LP. It says enough on its own. One of my favorite efforts in electronic music of the year so far. The discrete and seemingly insignificant moments of everyday life, elevated to towering scale. Highly recommended on every count. You can check it below, and pick it up from Where to Now, or a record store near you.
H.Takahashi – Raum (2017)