Faraway lands once only the subject of dreams are now an exciting reality, thanks to the possibility of flight. Flying all over the world is now second nature to a lot of people; the airports themselves are primary, international gateways to new ways of life and continents yet to be discovered. In just under 24 hours, it’s possible to touch down on the other side of the planet. This also has the effect of bringing us all closer, and as the frenetic pace of travel increases still further, the distance stretching out between us all will only continue to diminish, with no mountains or oceans acting as restrictive barriers.
Like the Disney World ride, it’s feeling more and more like a small world after all. In fact, while cruising along inside the all-singing, all-dancing ride, there’s always a possibility of nudging the tiny boat in front (and the line stretching all the way back adds to the belief that it really is a small world). Even in very remote, out-of-the-way places we may walk into someone we haven’t seen for a while. Are these chance meetings just a one-off event, a hint at destiny, or do we face the thought that Earth really is a lot smaller than we think?
As the human population continues to grow at a record rate, the space we inhabit becomes even more precious, and this population rise isn’t something that – unlike the telephone – you can put on-hold. Through the internet, we’re connected to a worldwide network full of possibilities (and maybe a little something else…) Just like a famous cell phone provider with a well-known tagline, it’s a truth that we’re better, connected. International friendships are kindled and love may be found. Of course, there are two sides to every coin, but you would never know of a darker underside when listening to A Little Planet.
The music on A Little Planet is so open-eyed and stimulating it could’ve been a part of a slogan or a jingle for a travel agency – perhaps the kind complete with a free vacation brochure and the attractive, smiling blonde girl enticing you with a slice of paradise. In a way, the music is a melodic vacation in paradise, only ours is a forty-minute excursion instead of a fortnight. For musician and visual artist Okamotonoriaki, there’s a sense that A Little Planet isn’t just the physical Earth poured into music, but the inner world inside our hearts and minds, full of creation and imagination. Each track feels like a separate person, advancing through the day-to-day with sun-bright hope instead of struggle. Okamotonoriaki draws on a substantial imagination that is far from little, appearing to circle around tiny thought bubbles or running emotions that, while temporary, hold significant feelings.
A Little Planet is just as cosy and introverted as it suggests. Sunshine melodies are placed alongside lightly glitched rhythms that breeze through even lighter atmospheres. Never is this little world confined to the point of restriction or claustrophobia. “I’m Home” is the first track to unfold, and it does so unobtrusively, like an inquisitive person shyly coming out of their shell. As a beautiful piano searches its surroundings, chord tones appear, and are as welcoming and as inviting as the first, reassuring cup of tea after a long flight home.
“Call Me” features guest vocalist Cokiyu, as she playfully asks you to call her – maybe. A chiming synth line could reflect a ringing cell phone, cascading ever downwards and dripping into a puddle of a new, kind friendship and the possibility for love. As these elements advance, a stuttering, slightly glitched beat adds even more light percussion to the mix. Sparkling melodic phrases and a feel-good vibe dominate the record, and who could resist that? “Commuting”, with its distant intervals representing a flurry of people, rattles along as if the beat’s inside a packed train carriage. That carriage that’s supposed to hold 50 people but now holds a hundred, and that awkward moment when you accidentally tread over toes as you struggle to get yourself out. It’s the coffee on the go as a voice calls out the daily incidents one by one, read as if sneaking a peek at words from another’s newspaper. It isn’t a stressed listen, but it is an incredibly varied one; a multiple set of colours stuck in the red lights, yet without the frustration. It’s the record’s rush hour. As if the tones are calming drops of rain, the melodies soak up any approaching tension, and there isn’t a teardrop in sight.
Pillow-soft, the concoction flows with irresistible melody after irresistible melody. It’s almost as if Okamotonoriaki is celebrating the unity of cultures, countries and people inside his music. This is a musical message at least fifty years old (come together, right now.) In “Sprite”, tinkling melodies are showered over light drum beats and powdered rhythms. Okamotonoriaki’s music is safe and without fear; we can be sure that there aren’t any monsters in the dark.
Tribal rhythms take us to “Voyager”, which isn’t just a musical excursion but an exploration to the core of our hearts, where emotions are draped in appreciation and joy. Drums are increased into an almost breakbeat rhythm that collides around the little planet with an active energy. Okamotonoriaki’s use of multiple instruments, pop-cloudy textures and electronics is so vast as to make everything else appear tiny. “Newspaper Songs”, and her vocal echoes, add a touch of tired, reversing drone and the sound of evening rainfall that wraps everything up in a fitting finale of peace.
Our planet is bound to get even smaller in the years and decades to come, but what Okamotonoriaki’s music is saying is that, instead of fight the change, embrace it. The once distant is now almost close enough to touch. Although this mantra may not be for everyone in the real world, in Okamotonoriaki’s little planet there’s no need to keep your distance. (James Catchpole)