“Masako” (Self Titled)

Masako’s self titled album, released this year, is one that took a number of listenings to fully appreciate. Not that the album is dull in any way, on the contrary! Masako has so much going on “behind the scenes” that it’s virtually impossible to hear it all in one sitting, and it takes some studied listening to fully embrace it all. Many of the tracks are composed in what I call a “groove style,” meaning that the composer lays out a structure that repeats itself over and over (the groove), and builds on that structure over the course of the piece. Done well this can be extremely effective, and Masako does it well.
In addition to this, the pieces that are more compositionally complex are absolutely a delight. Masako finds that perfect balance between the simple and the complicated, and the listener is able to sit right in the “pocket” of the music, drift away, and take a journey with her. In fact, all of the pieces on the album do this in their own way. Think of the more structured pieces as guided meditations, while the more dominant “groove style” tracks are trance inducing.
Also, listen for the very distinct Japanese influences that Masako interweaves throughout the work. They blend extremely well with her contemporary style, creating a fusion that is truly unique. The flow, recording and production of the album shine in the spirit and mastery of Will Ackerman, who had the pleasure of working on this album with Masako. Together, they were able to create a piece of art that would make a formidable debut album, truly a force to contend with.
Among my favorites on the album are the opening track “Glastenbury VT,” “Secret Path To Point Reyes I,” and “Ottauquechee River.” These three tracks are, in my mind, absolutely brilliant. Masako’s ability to create an interesting flow of variation on a groove is truly outstanding. “Amazing Newt” might be one of the most interesting in chord structure and development, and is a lovely blend of Eastern and Western sounds. “Moon and Stream” and “Greening” paint pictures of nature in all of it’s glory, and create a strong sense of connection with our natural world. The final track, “Forgotten Moments,” takes the album out, almost asking a question of the listener. This will leave you with a sense of intrigue and wonder, wanting to start the album over again from track one. In this way the recording is very hypnotic and engaging, prompting you to listen over and over again.
This an album that I highly recommend to anyone who is a fan of the Contemporary/New Age piano genre, especially if you enjoy listening to music that will combine enough simplicity, composition, and ethnic fusion to intrigue the mind long after you’re done listening.