There is a time in any good musician’s life when they absolutely nail down whatever they had to place. Akira Ito, one time keyboardist for influential Japanese psych rock outfit The Far East Band, could have stayed with that group rehashing “out there” musical troupes – variations on psychedelia with The FABs or Kitaro-like, Jean-Michel Jarre-aping electro-prog as in his early, solo career – or he could, you know, grow the hell up, and accept that music evolves, and so must he. There’s only so much Ummagumma aping one can do in a lifetime. That’s what makes Marine Flower his first release under his own Green & Water record label truly interesting. It shows his shift to a particular electronic aesthetic that his country was cultivating at the time.
Marine Flower (Science Fantasy) was far more minimal and exploratory than anything he’d ever done before. To my ears, it appeared that Akira was taking influence from German elektronic kosmische music of Cluster, Manuel Göttsching, and Neu and trying to chisel it down through a Japanese aesthetic – essentially using the more holistic, environmentally conscious, spacial aware ideas of other Japanese electronic New Age artists like Hiroshi Yoshimura etc. as a sifter/filter to temper the influence of that kind of music. It was/is a beautiful set of electronic mood music with meditative overtones of nostalgia, comfort, and sweetness for good reason.
Album highlight “Essence of Beauty” puts all these feelings of aware reflection into full view. Essentially written as part of a musical series called “Music For Inochi”/Music for Life on his label, each album in this series attempted to carry along intently a specific mood. Water-based music, forest-based music, macro-life music like Yumiko Morioka’s Resonance – simple ideas that took all those far out, less inviting, explorations into far more personal and focused pieces.
Although Marine Flower (Science Fantasy) was meant for the New Age market, it ventures far outside the genre. Drum machines, saxophones, electric violin, and all sorts of assorted mallet percussion find ways to make their presence felt in what really is supposed to be a set of percolating “floating” synthesizer music. Not entirely perfect – but what is? – it does have so much to offer as another important piece in this whole structure of Japanese electronic music we’re uncovering (with our Western ears) piecemeal.