Listening to air doesn't feel like an experience, if feels like a privilege.
Hideyuki Hashimoto's air doesn't spend a moment of its run-time uninhabited by elegance. It's the second installment of a two-part work Hashimoto released on his label, nlar. The first installment was entitled earth and released in the summer of 2012. While earth rightfully received a large amount of praise from critics, air bests it by a hair. Hashimoto's strengths seem to be rooted in an effortless emotional conveyance, each new miniature thread that appears in air leads to a direct feeling, often of overwhelming loss, sadness, relaxation, or peace.
Throughout its 14 tracks, there isn't a moment that lacks in this genuine and honest conveyance. There aren't any tricks used, this is pure translation in the most unadulterated form of composition; improvisation. air as a collection flows together seamlessly, moving from one piece to the next in a sequence so perfect that it suggests this may have been constructed as a complete piece and split into segments later on.
By the time air ends, it won't seem like it should be over. Hashimoto's pieces are so beautiful, so compelling, so soothing, and so relaxing that when they bleed together to form the towering achievement that is air, it does it so inconspicuously that it'll seem as its only just begun. In cases like these there are no singular highlights, especially when compared to the whole. There are strands here and there that stand out as brief moments that have the capacity to move more deeply than the others with greater immediacy but on reflection, they only achieve that due to the parts that set them up for it. Once that realization is made, the set-ups, the let-downs, and the context pieces become just as moving as their more immediate counterparts.
Thanks to air's complete nature, there aren't any stretches of compositions that detract, slow, or disrupt the record. There's only the gradual opening of the window to the heart that Hashimoto has provided. Each piece of air seems so intensely personal it's as if you're slowly getting to know Hashimoto himself, which is one of the highest compliments you can ever give an artist. In saying that, it acknowledges an unparalleled sense of composition that is free of any impurity and a direct, unaffected, representation of the artist. With both earth and air Hashimoto has managed to achieve that transcendental level of artistry.
Impressively, earth and air are the only two records that Hashimoto has released so far. Displaying an extremely enviable prowess at such a young age (26), Hashimoto has set himself up as one of the next great voices of piano improvisation. His pieces are balanced, subtle, nuanced, and memorable. Throughout both records he has proven himself to be an unflinchingly honest composer unafraid to explore the boundaries of sadness and melancholy. When both earth and air are put together and played straight-through, it really does feel like another vision of the world is being presented -- and it feels like a privilege to be able to experience it.