There’s only one proper time and way to write this review: midnight, alone. In this hour of introspection, there’s room for contemplation, for dreaming, for regret, for hope. But I’m not completely alone; the music of Wataru Sato provides the company.
Some may know the artist as Gecko, as the founder of Tokage Records, or as an artist who has shared a stage with Anoice and Matryoshka. Here Sato is unadorned, armed only with his piano, a brave weapon with which to face the night. The opening song has no title (unless “no title” is a title), and begins so gingerly that one can hear the space between the notes. But after 50 seconds, the pace quickens, the timbres bloom. The study time spent with Lubomyr Melnyk shows, as Sato proves that a single instrument can sound like two or more. The same back-and-forth will repeat numerous times throughout the set, as slower pieces and segments alternate with faster, thicker counterparts. The heart races and returns. As one might expect, “Cuddle” has a different pace than “Stream”. One wonders which came first, the compositions or the titles. In the end, it doesn’t matter; they fit as perfectly as the hues of midnight blue and grey.
Sato’s style of play seems effortless, as he is capable of handling even the greatest densities of notes. More importantly, his music provides comfort in the dark. These songs set themselves up as bulwarks against sadness or fear. While they often seem to look back, they do so with a sense of mono no aware; while the past cannot be changed, it can be cherished. The music seems gentle, warm, kind, designed for this time of night, offering one last chance to dispel the shadows before sleep, to steel the heart and soothe the soul. The title track grows more rapid as it progresses, reflecting confidence and courage. Even “Waver” only wavers a bit before settling in.
An attractive cover, a defined theme, a unified mood, and a smooth flow combine to make midnight solitude a standout in the crowded field of solo piano. This is midnight music, pure and simple, a perfect score for the night. Rest well; may nothing disturb your slumber. (Richard Allen)