by Ben Hogwood
What’s the story?
Wata Igarashi makes his Kompakt debut with this multi-dimensional album, the latest chapter in a career that has seen him release for The Bunker NY, Delsin, Midgar and Time To Express, as well as his own WIP net label.
Here he is for a full-blown concept album release, around the mythical secret kingdom of Agartha. In his own words, “Named for the mythical secret kingdom, understood as a complex maze of underground tunnels, perhaps designed by Martians who colonised the Earth tens of thousands of years ago, it’s a similarly mystical, perhaps even cosmic trip – but this time, exploring an inner, deeply personal cosmos.”
On his journey, Igarashi creates scenes from an imaginary film based on the kingdom, teeming with musical incident.
What’s the music like?
Deeply mysterious from the start. Igarashi sets the mood with a thick cloud of ambience, that folds gradually over the music and sets a mood of disquiet through its use of microtones. This unsettled outlook continues when the beats arrive on Searching, but with Subterranean Life it feels as though the explorer has arrived at their destination and are beginning a journey of discovery.
The music becomes more fragmented and improvised, exploring more dimensions with metallic snippets of percussion, but then the mood changes with Ceremony Of The Dead, whose urgency increases as the melodic layers build. This track was originally written as part of a Sony 360 Reality Audio spatial sound concert, and it sounds great on headphones especially when a fresh vocal loop crosses over with Igarashi’s beats. The mood raises still further with Floating Against Time, a beatless number doffing its cap to Steve Reich, while at the same time showing Igarashi’s ability to cross-pollenate a number of different melodic lines with beautiful results. Abyss II runs with similar material, adding electronic sharpness.
Another scene change plunges us into the experimental climate of Burning, where musical activity and syncopation is rife, busy riffs trading off against each other. Agartha itself is the most descriptive scene, Igarashi painting pictures at a slower tempo even with the brush of a hi hat or the crescendo of a drone. This ushers in Darkness, but not the expected downward turn of mood – rather a cosmic interplay from swooping lines on the treble synth over an exquisite held chord. The mood settles towards the end, segueing nicely into Eternally, where the cosmic mood prevails but in much calmer waters.
Does it all work?
It does – though Agartha is definitely best experienced in one listen, so you get the twists, turns and mood changes of the whole journey.
Is it recommended?
It is. This is music of dense textures and intense colours, rewarding the listener who is prepared to revisit on several occasions. That way the secrets of Agartha can be fully unlocked.