The cover art for Apologues works upon an intriguing mirroring that makes the frottage-like forms look as if they were a landscape in which a forest stands over a lake. It is a sort of distillation of the natural into something blurred, a nature not so much contemplated but glanced at from within, while passing through the trees, their branches scratching off the skin slightly. These are musical snapshots of life, a manner of thought that finds in Masayoshi Fujita’s vibraphone a kind of self-reflection, sounding off in echoes and natural delays, like the imprint of light that remains after we close our eyes, forever in escape. Everything is fading, as the joyful disappearance of seasons and stars, a continual meditation that keeps the future at bay, but that nevertheless embraces its visions of the whole, the way it gives the past its color. With the collaboration of various other instrumentalists, there is a painterly quality to the process in which these apologues are drawn, letting each of the instruments work their commonplaces like formal charms, and what should sound like clichés end up being the most emotional parts of the album.
If an apologue is a pedagogical formalism meant to teach a moral lesson indirectly, and if it eschews flights of fantasy common in fables in favor of a ‘naturalism’ that intends to describe rules ‘as they are’ (think of Aesop), then these Apologues seem to try to find that compositional ruleset with which to frame bits of life in movement, life in/as time, with all their endings and beginnings. The path to follow, of course, is far from the new and the experimental, so future-oriented they cannot but exist in the very last echoes of a vibraphone melody. This is why the album sounds like something you’ve heard before, and it reminds me of an Akira Kosemura effort sans the keen electronic edge, opting to look to the sides instead of looking forward. “Let those instruments express their own images or atmospheres (…) given in their history”, the artist says in the liner notes, and this is where the landscape reflection comes in, not only as metaphor for the nature we encounter and find aesthetic forms in, but also as the way in which context often speaks, as mirroring, as self-consciousness of a collective kind, grounded in meanings shared.
The sweet, common-sounding melodies and harmonies that grow and fade throughout the album are not subverted, nor are their structures much experimented on. They all follow a path well-trodden, a path that possibly appeals even to the most ardent consumer of kitsch, but instead of dwelling on the immediately identifiable – in a kind of static awe – they subtly re-arrange those meanings, restoring, perhaps, their original profundity. This is where Fujita’s ambient experience shows, and why Apologues is no mere neo-classical exercise in the nostalgic renewal of a nature lost. It prefers to trace the newness of the old, to find the ardent love of the lullaby, the oft-quiet sadness of the requiem, and to bring those simple lessons to the fore of a sensibility overwhelmed with the musical queues tacked on so many a film, advert, and the classical music compilations section at record stores. In Apologues, nature hasn’t gone anywhere – it’s right there, in the slightly distorted reflection on the window. (David Murrieta)