Inner Ocean Records aims to celebrate the diverse soundscape lo-fi music encompasses, showcasing artists and genres that feel authentic and distinct whilst overstepping the perceived boundaries of what ‘electronic’ music can be. In their celebration of naturally evolving sounds, their newest release Pluma spotlights ambient soundscapes and the orchestral potential of the natural world – from the sea to the skies.
Shinji Wakasa is a Tokyo based sound artist and innovative composer whose music is for the ears what art exhibitions are for the eyes – hubs of creativity demanding to be taken in. Shinji’s new album Pluma is eight tracks of pure ingenuity, an amalgamation of electronic sounds curated for an indulgent and immersive listening experience.
Envision a gallery before you, the plaque reads Pluma, you walk inside. As you take your first steps into Shinji’s showcase, eight pieces span the room, their narratives poised to unfurl before you. The first is in the form of ‘Covert’, a delicate and layered composition that sounds the same as light cascading off a rotating mirror ball hanging above your head – constant and hypnotic. As the electronic soundbites overwhelm the introductive melody, Shinji isolates the ivory keys, a series of sweet notes bidding you adieu as you walk clockwise towards ‘Raven’.
“the cyclical soundbites of our technological age”
The second track is slightly pacier, the energetic tone forcing you to listen deeper, to hear the intersecting beats as they clash in hope of holding your attention. Suddenly it’s time to move along, and the intense focus ‘Raven’ demanded is dropped as you’re submerged into the surrealist sounds of ‘Hauchiwa’. Shinji unites the pastoral sonics of whistling winds and concealed crickets with the cyclical soundbites of our technological age, as if we’re listening to the dial up of a page, the loading image a remote rainforest, some haven far away. This emblem of calm is striking as the track reminds us of the regimented lives we lead, controlled by beeping alarms and ticking wristwatches that signal our three minutes in this dualistic bliss is over.
But fear not, as ‘Quills’ elongates this moment of calm, like you’re being permitted to sit and exhale whilst the crowds cascade behind you, desperate for a glimpse. As you fall deeper beneath Shinji’s sonic spell you’re transported into the scene from ‘Hauchiwa’ in ‘Primaries’. This standout track from Pluma is a journey in itself, the understated percussion reminiscent of your own steps as you seek the source of the harmonious birdsong Shinji included, spurred on by the applause of the rustling leaves you brush past on your way.
You’re halfway through the Pluma exhibition, and the last three tracks leave little to be desired. ‘Snowy Field’ encompasses the feeling its namesake offers, a carefully laid sonic blanket that masks the undoing of this past year in the same way a fresh blanket of snow conceals the imperfections of the earth. Just as the bare, white fields beg to be changed forever by your next steps, ‘Snowy Fields’ provides six minutes of atmospheric serenity to soundtrack your next big decision or inspire your smallest leap – no pressure, no rush.
“lost in a flurry in the sky ready to watch the new dawn”
As a glowing exit sign comes into view, you have only two pieces left to admire. One an anatomical drawing of different bird species titled ‘Ornithology’ and the last a striking blue portrait of a winter dawn. Shinji’s mastery of sound allows us observe these winged creatures in detail before we soar up high by their side, with the seventh track titled after the study of birds and the eighth a view famously seen best by their eye. In ‘Ornithology’, Shinji builds the track until it culminates in a cacophony of sounds, the build like a bustling wind that elevates you beneath the wings you studied, lost in a flurry in the sky ready to watch the new dawn.
The final track is synoptic, like the audio of a time lapse before the final shot. Whether a series of nocturnal snapshots before dawn breaks or a bird’s eye view of crowds rushing through a museum all day, ‘Cobalt Dawn’ is a fitting close, the final moment of solace in Shinji’s soundscape before you step into the busy street once again.
Listening to Pluma is seeing each beat as a brushstroke, each melody as a moment on the canvas that took centre stage until this sonic artist layered on another coat. The lack of vocals permits you to render your own narrative onto the album and in turn let it narrate moments of your new year. Shinji is undoubtedly a sculptor of electronic sound, and Inner Ocean Records will exhibit Pluma to all this Friday.
Come along, it is free.