‘On a withered branch
a crow has landed.
Autumn evening.’ - Matsu Basho
A haiku is a form of poetry which originated in Japan, the native home of Yuichiro Fujimoto. Basho’s haiku above is indeed a famed one that has seen it dive into Japanese culture, and although it appears to possess a bleak, it-is-what-it-is meaning on first glance, a deeper look reveals an infinite level of detail and imagery, all of which takes place in the present during winter’s predecessor.
Exactly like that of the transient haiku’s counterpart, minimalist music also perches its frail, reduced instrumentation upon its own drooping bars and shrivelled branches. A haiku aims to capture a feeling, or more precisely a moment in time, and to express it all in only three lines of poetry. As difficult as this may seem, and paradoxically the simplicity that must surely be present, musicians working in the area of minimalist music share the mirrored, unfolding nature of a Japanese haiku in their brief, but detailed, descriptions of the present, picking up on the state of the world around them like the street’s very own Bestautolenders.com receptive radio frequency.
Speaks Melodies captures the seemingly steady, ordinary heartbeat of everyday life, using only three lines of the street’s own poetry to do so. It is the intake of one moment, the flash of the photograph being taken and the silence, now decibels loud, of the inevitable abandonment left behind. Fujimoto’s sound sketches are pulled directly from their open setting; the sounds of the street, transmitted through an open window. Like the haiku, we are in the presence of events taking place right here, right now. At the same time, we are somewhat removed, separated by invisible lines the recording process has taped off. Distant, the music watches silently on at the life of the street below. All of the pieces are snapshots, like an adored three lined haiku.
Yuichiro Fujimoto understands that the less we speak, the more we are able to convey. Surely, it is a Zen philosophy if ever there was one, and it’s relevance sinks into the three lines of Speaks Melodies just as deeply as a resonating poem. All of the silhouettes present in that one moment are pulled into a temporary stasis, and they’re found hidden in the lines of fragile piano, looping, pure percussion and the natural transition as one moment shifts into another.
The deep, gorgeous keys of the piano, the tick-tock of a clock passing time, capturing its own seconds with slicing hands that are well versed in accuracy and precision and the tinkling of delicate china make for a caressing introduction on “A Cup Of Melody”. Added to this are loops of acoustic guitar, while a percussive bite enters over the piano’s melody. While all of these elements may not sound very minimalistic when added together, it is their restricted usage and separation that ultimately decides it is indeed minimal music. Perhaps surprisingly, the addition of natural, unedited drums on “The Boys” never feels out of context, despite advancing over a soothing piano; it is something that rarely occurs in music, like an abstract collision in the street. It gives the piece propulsion, like the almost unstoppable, boyish freedom of running joyously in the park. A crow takes its own flight in ruffled confusion at the sudden, skipping beat. The birdsong, speaking their own melodies, settle down outside the window, and are tapered with the whirring noise of the recording process; the synthetic and the natural as one.
“Computer Music Made By 8 Years Old Girl” shifts the tone into an uncontrolled, melodic frenzy of electronics; perhaps these are the first steps into music and the excitement in possibility she creates, as all thought out melody is washed away. This is as experimental as Fujimoto gets, and the electronics do not last long. The pieces continue to revolve at their own pace, while underneath passers-by walk along their own, daily paths. As the rain on “Puddle” falls lightly into the gutters of the street, the droplets remain in their own moment. Fujimoto is aware that no other instrumentation is required, apart from a recurring drone; rain heals everything. Reflective thoughts seem to create their own interlocking chain as the rain blurs the window in clouded streaks. Falling rain is, perhaps, a minimal sound in itself, and yet each splashing raindrop sounds unique. It may be that we are so used to it that we sadly cannot distinguish the difference. It’s also devoid of any other sound; nobody is out there in the rain.
Thoughtful, ever polite and kind-hearted are the three lines which make up the music on Speaks Melodies. Japanese artists seem to be able to bring to life a quiet declaration of their surroundings, poised delicately in balance with the immediate and with the music outside. What was once a dissonant chatter in the street perhaps evolves into a natural sound due to its ever present state. “Street Pray”, intoned in Spanish, defines the differing melodies and harmonies of the street. Sighing like the rain, the percussion feels lively, and this is probably Fujimoto’s most accessible piece on the record.
The sound of the street carries a deceptively deep voice. Although they may largely pass over our heads without a second thought, Fujimoto has created an astonishing level of highly detailed music in its recording. The life of the street is reflected in the 16 pages of street photography, taken by Fujimoto, that accompanies the physical release. Speaks Melodies is a quietly fascinating haiku for that autumn evening as the voice of the street creates its own poetry; a three-lined verse, syllable after quiet syllable, on street life. (James Catchpole)