Motohiko Hamase – Plateau
From Motohiko Hamase – Reminiscence
Released on Shi Zen, 1986, Japan

The idea that there are still some unsung Japanese heroes of ambient seems both very exciting and puzzling today as a lot of articles (some in mainstream magazines) and even reissues (like the recent reissue of Midori Takada‘s Through the Looking Glass) have been documenting this particular genre, space and time for the past few months. However, the fact is that many musicians are still completely unknown in the western world and Motohiko Hamase is one of them.

The question is « why ? »

When you look at Hamase‘s career, he was no stranger to Tokyo experimental/ambient scene that is celebrated today : he has been playing a lot with Yasuaki Shimizu in famous jazz and ambient acts like Yas-Kaz and Japanese Jazz drummer George Ohtsuka‘s band as well as on Shimizu‘s solo albums (including the amazing IQ179and has also been involved in some Better Days recordings.

If you’ve clicked on all the hyperlinks above, you would have heard Motohiko Hamase playing his favorite instrument : the fretless bass. Motohiko Hamase is actually much more than a fretless bass player, he is also one of its most well known (at least, in Japan) theorists as he wrote many books about his preferred instrument.

From 1985 to 1993, Hamase released five solo albums, Reminiscence being his second one. Released on Japanese new age label Shi ZenReminiscence is a great album on which Hamase crafts amazing backdrops for his fretless bass to express itself.

But as for many great albums, the frame is as important as the main subject… On Plateau, Hamase explores the repetitive sound of synthetic marimbas as well as sampled wind instruments, and  with its super deep and slightly out-of-tune synth-waves, the result somehow reminds of Oneohtrix Point Neverearly work – except that he also adds some highly uplifting bits like ethereal choirs and beautiful strings which give the song an upward structure (while OPN‘s songs usually provide a non-climaxing structure).

We did not answer the question « Why some artists gained some recognition while other ones are still pretty much ignored ? » but there’s one thing we know for sure : Motohiko Hamase really deserves some attention from the fans of Japanese 1980’s ambient.

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