Sur La Mer, the ambient instrumental project of musician Atsu Nagayama, give us a small introduction to their sound on Prelude to the Sea. It could be an EP or a single piece—the four short movements are labeled as those of a Romantic symphony. Either way, this is easy jazz, or post-rock if you’re inclined to those kind of labels. Despite the titles—“Adagio”, “Lento”, “Andate”, “Allegro”—the tempo hardly shifts from a background music, walking pace. This is a shame, because there’s the seed of a real musical point of view here—all muted trumpet, looping thematic elements, static atmospheres. The last piece, “Allegro”, is the fullest; a more sophisticated polyphony between the bass guitar and trumpet creates more interest. But in the end, despite the music’s attractive sheen and flowing minimalism, it still feels amateur, like an undergraduate music major’s semester-end composition. The important step up into the art-pop spectrum is still somehow evading Sur La Mer.
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