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Album Review

Only her second album in seven years, Aki Tsuyuko's Hokane somehow manages to convey both the wonder and innocence of childhood and the appreciation of these qualities that comes with adulthood. She explored these themes on her 1999 full-length debut, Ongakushitsu (which was released in Japan on Nobukazu Takemura's aptly named Childisc label), but brings more maturity and organic depth to them here. On pieces like the opening "Como Suite," with its alternately cheerful and wistful movements, it feels like the grown-up Tsuyuko is watching and reinterpreting the electric organ lessons of her childhood, as well as the influence classical composers such as Erik Satie had on her. Likewise, the delicate, precise, but still kinetic melodies and rhythms of "Owlet Hymn" and "Bud of a Song" echo her years of studying Nihon-buyo, Japan's traditional dance. However, all of this emphasis on form and discipline doesn't mean that Hokane is formal or stuffy. In fact, the restraint in Tsuyuko's music makes it that much lighter and whimsical. "Dune and Clarinet," like many of her works, could easily serve as a soundtrack (or as inspiration) for a children's television show, while "Zou and Chou"'s fragile, bubbly melody sounds like pure joy. There are many moods on display throughout Hokane, though — Tsuyuko's interpretation of childhood is far from naïve or simplistic, as the extended, dreamlike feel of "Aquilo" and the reflective, end-of-the-day glow of "Noel's Organ" reveal. Released in a limited edition of 2,000 with a hardcover book featuring equally charming visuals and writing by Tsuyuko, Hokane is a gently remarkable album that evokes a time of being very little without romanticizing it.


Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '90s, '00s

Born in Gifu, Japan, electronic composer/visual artist Aki Tsuyuko began studying both the electronic organ and Nihon-buyo, a form of Japanese classical dance, at a young age. Though she preferred piano to electronic organ and modern ballet to Nihon-buyo, learning these disciplines early on influenced the delicate, precise music she made on her own later. Erik Satie's work was another major influence: after discovering his music as a teenager, Tsuyuko interpreted his piano works to electronic organ,...
Full Bio

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