What’s with Japanese session bass players? Yoshio Suzuki, Tsugutoshi Goto, Hirobumi Suzuki, etc. and now Motohiko Hamase, all at one point or another decide to show the world that they can do more than lay down a tasty bass line. #Notes of Forestry shows exactly how fascinating their own ideas can be when they’re given their own limelight. A mix of golden-era ECM fretless bass jazz (Motohiko’s tone reminding me much of Eberhard Weber’s), American Steve Reich-ian New Age, and Japanese electronic minimalism, #Notes of Forestry still sounds genuinely surprising, in quite a timeless way.
#Notes of Forestry was Motohiko’s attempt to explore new frontiers for his bass playing and to use computer-based sequencing to aid in this exploration. Often receding into the background or popping up in very subtle and gentle ways, Motohiko lets the bass play as quiet partner to all the pastoral electronic atmosphere floating around each song. Featuring more special melodic synthesis, Japanese percussion, and unplaceable organic/inorganic woodwind instruments than bass notes, Motohiko often lets others build from his composition. Yoshio Ojima, acting as co-producer, does his best to capture and create a finely detailed aural space where every part is clearly defined, with its own area to traffic in.
The title track and “Spiral For Multipul Instruments” are good examples of tracks where Motohiko understands his role in these compositions. On both tracks Satsuki Shibano play these wonderful impressionistic piano lines that he then proceeds to build a whole sonic world around before he tries to join in with a bass track. Rather than try to drown you in ridiculous bass lines – when he does comes in – Motohiko does so in a way that glides or slides around the music, rather than turn the whole show into a popping, slapping bass fiesta. This is something you clearly hear in the closer “Nude”, a perfect picture of his vision.
Another wonderful addition to Newsic and the Wacoal Art Center’s small, but groundbreaking, discography, #Notes of Forestry depicts a wonderful musical era in Japan that still has many more surprises in store for us. This, though, is Motohiko’s green peak – a very free-form one at that.