These are the things that surprise sometimes. I went into researching some background story behind Hajime Mizoguchi’s deeply affecting Halfinch Dessert and wound up uncovering that their is some meaning behind this album. Hajime Mizoguchi was born and raised in Tokyo. By the age of eleven he had chosen to educate himself in the ways of the cello. A career that began once he graduated from the prestigious music department of the Tokyo University of Arts led to his talents being put to to use by many as a studio musician.
Listen to “A Dream Come From the Wast” from Halfinch Dessert
Looking at his many studio credits, immediately many things pop out to me. Seigén Ono, Gontiti, Killing Time, Minako Yoshida (as producer for Mari Iijima), all stand out for decidedly not being musical places a prodigious cello player would waste his time in. Experimental, ambient, and techno pop music without a single “classical” credit to account for, that was Hajime’s early credited work. Hearing and understanding Halfinch Dessert really pulls the veil off why that was so. Hajime loved to make music that was contemporary and accessible, but in a way his music had a lot of ruminative and big-hearted romantic melancholy that one would shake off making purely technically-proficient music.
In Japan, Hajime is most known for his CM (commercial music), and perhaps for his most famous “song” “Peace” for the Japan Tobacco company. Rarely had smoking a pack of lung killers sounded as classy and bittersweet as when Hajime soundtracked their commercial for Peace Lights. Soundtracking Honda’s Lead R commercial surely had to be another arrow in his quiver? The path to get to where he’d go to next was surprisingly difficult. At the age of 23, right in the midst of his most productive session work period, Hajime is involved in a serious car accident that causes him to incur terrible whiplash. Unable to deal with the pain of that accident, he decides to write music to help him fall asleep through that hurt.
With time, solely by himself, he’d use all this time to write all the music that would come to constitute Halfinch Dessert his solo debut. Computer, synths, samplers, drum machines, and (most importantly) his cello would crystallize together through the multitude of influences he had streaming in his head. Miles, Coltrane, Jobim, Debussy, Karajan, Nelson Riddle all of these formed the basis of what you’ll hear here. Hajime likes to state how he always prefers to compose with everything except the cello. I can sort of understand why. It makes it easier to let all these other parts that sound like Jean Luc Ponty crossing the Sahara with Midori Takada joined in hand to travel to the land of ECM Jazz have as important a role to play as his cello. Like a master cinematographer it’s his cello that frames the widescreen electro-acoustic compositions in a way that is little like anything else from this fruitful Japanese era.
Listen to “Parallel World” from Halfinch Dessert
His debut might be his oldest creation but man doesn’t it still sound like his most essential/existential work.