After the headrush IDM of '5 Dec', with its cluttered beats and uncompromising sonic maelstroms that bore resemblances to Aphex Twin and Venetian Snares at times and countrymen Xinlisupreme and Merzbow at others '88' may seem like a massive curveball. It is composed entirely from sparse piano playing that is completely devoid of the stuttering electronic saturation typically found across the vast majority of Kashiwa Daisuke's work, and it maintains a regal composure throughout. Its name comes from the 88 keys found on a traditional full-size piano and it is a name that mirrors the opaque simplicity of the album; where Kashiwa has previously been an expert in forging an almost infinite amount of layers to envelop a listener, and sometimes to pummel them into submission, his latest work is immediate and instantly decipherable.
Yet considering the depth and variety of Kashiwa Daisuke's back-catalogue, and its place on the record label owned by the similarly indefinable World's End Girlfriend, it is a curveball that should perhaps not come as too much a surprise. Besides, his virtuoso piano playing has often been the root of his more explorative pieces, most notably the 36 minute opus 'Stella', and whilst Daisuke may have reigned in the hyperactive instrumentation and endless stop/starts that have almost begin his calling card '88' still covers a lot of ground, from a meditation on the previously mentioned 'Stella' (incase the 36 minutes of the original weren't quite enough) to a reworking of 'My Favourite Things' from The Sound of Music OST. There is a serene fragility throughout; where previously clattering percussion of billows of off-white noise would explode from nowhere at the drop of a hat there is now only retreat.
'88' is purely a 'classical' album, in a similar vein to Ryuichi Sakamoto, a self-professed fan of Daisuke's, on his wintry film score for Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence and World's End Girlfriend's own 'Air Doll' OST. It wanders throughout at a pedestrian pace, eschewing for the most part relatively modern ideas such as loops and strict repetition, yet it still carries a considerable emotional weight. It is entirely out of place at the (relative) heat of midsummer, and it may be a disappointment to a number of new fans gained with the release of '5 Dec' but then Kashiwa is nothing without contrasts, whether internal or external.
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