Susumu Hirasawa: Beacon / #2021reviews
Ever since the ’70s when he formed P-Model, his influential new wave / art rock / post-punk / whatever-you-wanna-call-their-strange-music band, Susumu Hirasawa has been both a legend and an outsider in Japan’s underground scene, releasing instantly recognizable music, first with P-Model then later on either as Kaku P-Model or under his own name… with better and lesser results But mostly better as in the case of Beacon, the latest addition to his massive discography.
Released mid-summer, the album is essential Hirasawa material. He remained true to his origins and influences up to this day and you can still pinpoint the same stylistical elements that he used early in his career, but at the same time his style and his arrangements became so sophisticated and unique, that by now his music is truly one-of-a-kind. And Beacon is the ultimate showcase of that. Elements of new wave, synth pop, techno pop, various sorts of rock and electronic music styles and all this mixed with a fine dose of opera aesthetics and presented in an often monumental, but always very entertaining and at points almost tacky manner. And it is not just the music, his singing style itself is very unique as well: sometimes it is closer to spoken-word, but then it changes and wanders off into opera-like territories, all with the theatrical flair of the most eccentric art rock singers you can imagine.
While the music is always 100% Hirasawa, it never gets boring, repetitive or monotonous, each and every track is different, a strange little world on its own. Most are operatic and monumental, some are just plain weird (The Cognitive Another World of the Logical Coterie or Landing) and all feature totally unexpected twists, with The End of Timeline being an especially fine example: it starts out sounding like some football tournament theme, but then goes to completely different directions, that even include some yodel-like singing. It is just as weird as it sounds, but it works perfectly, even though it absolutely shouldn’t. As for highlights, the opening title track is definitely one of them and so is the enchantingly melodic Disappearing Topia and the faster Ranks of Burning Flowers, while to point out any lesser tracks is a lot more difficult task. Maybe Cold Song, at least that was the only one that I felt was missing something. But turns out that it is originally a piece by Henry Purcell, that Hirasawa reworked with new lyrics, so, the only lesser one isn’t even his own composition.
An album of the year nominee for me and also, this one isn’t just another good album by him, it is probably one of his best and it is so essentially Hirasawa, that it can also serve as a perfect starting point for anyone who is new to his strange and wonderful world.
A year in reviews: in 2021 I was somewhat neglecting the site due to the lack of free time, but now I try to make up for it as much as possible, reviewing several important / good / interesting albums that were released this year. One for each day throughout December, from a very wide spectrum of genres. #2021reviews