Let’s try a little tenderness from Mitsuru Sawamura, otherwise known as Mich Live, one-time member of Japanese band Interior (with whom he wrote songs like “Luft” and “Park“) and brilliant session musician for others like Yukihiro Takahashi, Hajime Tachibana, Pierre Barouh, and Mari Iijima. In 1988, Mitsuru released under the Newsic label (home of Yoshio Ojima) something that straddles the lines of cool jazz, New Age, and electro-acoustic minimalism floating around Japan in that time. Plant Planet’s sounds like someone’s precious origami creation, a delicate, intricate thing from very simple material.
Produced by Yoshio Ojima and featuring the bass work and rhythm programming of Haruomi Hosono, Mitsuru mans the alto saxophone to weave delicate strains of brass tittering around stuff that recalls deconstructed electro-samba (“Plant’s Talk”), even more plaintive piano impressionism ala Yoshio Suzuki (“Sometimes”), and quivering environmental torch jazz (“Memories of the Wave”). Then adding his own sampling programming allows the album to shift to moody nocturnal electro-jazz (“Safety Room”) that finds new hitches to strap sparse FM digital synthesis.
“Safety Room”, a true highlight, is a wonderful mood piece where a musical nocturne gets lit with rays of marimba cutting through all sorts of emotional blues to present a really unique-sounding take on saudade. Haruomi Hosono makes his presence known on the surprisingly funky “Can’t You Or Cannot I?” playing rubbery bass lines that could belong on a late, great Cameo record, but here redeem what could have been a truly cheesy jazz-fusion jam. Slightly unsung and little known hero of this album, Reiko Saitoh contributes wonderful Bill Evans-like piano parts throughout the album only to get his own refreshingly sweet turn on “Who Needs Love?” with Mitsuru adding these little percussive asides that speak to some innocence hovering around this whole album.
Little by little as Mitsuru finds way to play less and say a lot with that amount, gorgeous songs like “Someday We’ll Make It True” hit those interior music notes that others explored before. The album plays out like a trip to your favorite museum during your holidays. I’m struggling to find ways to describe the tone of the music but to me it sounds like hearing some faraway, earnest music that sweeps you away when you’re at your most vulnerable, when you’re at ease with what’s around you. Most of the final songs are simple vamps led by Mitsuru that are infused with very passionate little delicate touches, a lilting piano melody, a soaring synth pad at just so, and unexpected rhythmic interjections. It’s not quite a masterpiece but Plant Planet’s has some structure that could sound perfect played in about any situation.