There’s something about winter – gazing at blankets of cold, soft snow – that invites introspection.

Maybe it’s the human urge to hibernate, or perhaps its nature imposing on the 9-5 bustle that makes us stop and become happily enveloped in the wider picture.

Nothing goes together quite so well as reflection and music – last winter’s perfect listen being Kate Bush’s ’50 Words for Snow’. This year, the frosty soundtrack crown could comfortably be awarded to vibraphone master and all-round experimental soundsmith Masayoshi Fujita with his latest release ‘Stories’.

Kanagawa-born Fujita, previously known as El Fog, now embraces Berlin as his home and after starting out in percussion, has graduated to mastering and transforming the art of the vibraphone.

Relaxation is personified by the crystalline reverberations made by his instrument, each note bouncing and falling into the next, meandering in and out of soft string sounds.

However, there are only so many ways to describe the layers that make up ‘Stories’, an album designed to demand every ounce of attention and based on images from nature – clouds, swans, forests and, of course, snow.

From the outset, with opening track ‘Deers’, the album is presented as a journey. Like a patchwork of events, feelings and thoughts sewn together softly and peppered with experimental, unique sounds achieved by Masayoshi using objects such as string bows, tin foil and beads.

For all its obvious mellowing powers, this is no album to resign to unchallenging background music status. The thought process and experimentation lends ‘Stories’ greater credit than that, much in the same way as ‘Colour for Money’, the 2007 release from similarly experimental sound conjurer, Drone.

This is an album that coaxes the listener, is subtle and inviting rather than grabbing, and is more linear and accessible than El Fog material.

So, as the snow melts and beyond, losing yourself in the wintery vibes of ‘Stories’ is the perfect acknowledgement of all things ambient, natural and just plain peaceful.

After all, who needs actions when you’ve got sounds?


Released Date 21/01/2013 (Flau) | |