Friday, September 03, 2004

Success is probably just a state of mind, and the mind being what it is--one's best friend, one's worst enemy--spirits can erode like old, wet newspapers. Though it takes those shitty moments to see the golden ones, no one ever said it was an easy process to live through. With On the Beach, Young's driving right through the muck of life to a beach of gold sand and moving in for an extended stay. It's not the prettiest, yet in its own way, with its unflinching honesty, it's about as beautiful an album as you'll ever hear. I tend to think of the relocation simply as "living in the the moment" or... consciousness. Like good jazz. Few people are really there on a minute by minute, day by day basis. Myself included. Osaka's Nagisa Ni Te lives there. It's a place where the cell phone signal doesn't register. The sky is rarely overcast. The foliage is always in full splendor, and the wind never stills.

The duo of Shinji Shibayama and partner Masako Takeda, plus a few friends, has crafted some of the most moving, timeless folk pop of the last decade. Albums like On the Love Beach, The New World and Feel all do more than just capture the musical possibilities of great songs and moving performances. They serve as templates for a deeply felt, spiritual existence. The beauty observed from this vantage point embodies transcendentalism in its purest state, with their lush pop majesty serving as a most serene, mind cleansing lookout.

It's tempting to see this dreamlike, atmospheric pop haze as inaccessble and distanced, but that's probably the most common mistake in approaching the music of Nagisa Ni Te. It's barely abstracted at all. On the contrary, their images are some of the most resolute, concrete descriptions of love and life I've come across. Their performance merges a traditional, and quite approachable, pop base with subtle, impressionist studio trickery that is often so quietly disarming that new layers of understanding wait to be further revealed on 4th, 5th and more listenings. And did I mention they use a mellotron tastefully? Who does that today? This is music made with the same attention to detail and texture as a film by someone like Tarkovsky or Zhang Yimou (pre Hero, which I LOVED btw). Like P-Vine labelmates, Low, Shinji and Masako bid the listener to approach music, and the world, from a more intuitive place, where words like "skill" and "competition" have little to no meaning, mastery is a state of mind, and grace is as simple as a flower, which I suppose would make this album The Same as a Flower (Jagjaguwar).

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