Japan’s flau label was founded by Yasuhiko Fukuzono in December, 2006. The label first waltzed its way into our hearts with the double-disc compilation Echod, assigned the official number of 00. The first artist release arrived in 2007, and the label has been going strong ever since, releasing a string of classics from artists as diverse as The Boats, Masayoshi Fujita, and Cicada. As the label was approaching its tenth anniversary, the office was ransacked twice, and a local musician was arrested. Having weathered such a storm, flau is finally able to celebrate its milestone, and does so with this elegant collection of waltzes. The circle waltz is one popular form, thus the title.
Circles’ waltzes begin in traditional fashion, but expand in new directions as the album develops, much like the waltz itself, which was invented in the 16th century but has undergone many permutations since then. While many of the artists here hail from Japan, this is an international party, as befits the nature of the label. Non-Japanese names familiar to our readers include Danny Norbury, Sophie Hutchings, Frédéric D. Oberland and Otto A Totland. Of these, the latter’s “Granny’s Waltz” is particularly endearing as it reaches back across generations to find a common connection in both subject and timbre. Rauelsson teams with Laurel Simmons to offer “Long Ago Waltz,” which seems like a player piano transmission from the Old West (or at least “Westworld”), a further expansion of themes.
Kanazu Tomoyuki turns in an early orchestral highlight, as elegant as a nocturne. Rayons provide a lovely visual image with “Merry-Go-Round,” adding light bells to bring listeners back to an innocent childhood and the joy of wooden horses. Label owner Fukuzono is also aus; he joins with Henning Schmiedt as HAU for the tender, conversation-filled “Anywhere.” (Speaking of aus, have you seen this stunning installation video?) It’s nice to be among friends, and to create something beautiful together, especially in the wake of a devastating emotional event. These artists join together in the circle waltz, and in so doing create a safe and sacred space. Happy belated anniversary to flau, and wishing you many more! (Richard Allen)