[Reviewed by stark]
Shinkiro is one of my favorite musical perversities. On the other hand, the tiny world of ambient still seems to underestimate Manabu Hiramoto’s project – or maybe it is him who prefers to keep aloof, although he released his stuff in a cult label in the full sense of the word, that is Athanor. In addition to solo material Manabu has also released some very specific collaborations, like the one with Contagious Orgasm ( this time the musician has chosen the Kotodama moniker), the one with Bardoseneticcube (both artists signed up as Bashin), or with Empusae issued by another underground giant, Ant-Zen. “Organic.Aural.Ornaments” came out on vinyl lately thanks to La Esencia from Spain.
“Way Of The Gods” moves me evermore, to this day. Shinkiro managed to paint the atmosphere of the Orient and its mystery, which, given the origin of the artist, seems obvious, but on the other hand many Japanese projects (the good ones) still have a more universal sound, at least for my taste. It’s thanks to Manabu we can walk around through blossoming cherry trees, observing the majestic and menacing Mount Fuji from a distance, and looking for quiet moments in a pagoda somewhere in the far province. That’s a big thing to say, but for me, “Way Of The Gods” is a musical equivalent of Kobayashi’s “Kwaidan”.
On “Cycle Of Rebirth” there are less references to the Orient, at least served directly, on an aural level, but conceptually this album is still deeply immersed in shintoism. Although this is still a great album, probably the best I’ve heard so far this year, and having the predisposition to be my number one in the whole Shinkiro portfolio.
There are a few surprises; though it begins classically as “1st Cycle” it is constructed of several layers of deep drones intertwining with each other like snakes on a high cane. But the second cycle consists of beautifully ephemeral synth passages and wonderfully alive background surprises in the second part, with a dynamic sequence as if taken straight from one of the less drone-oriented Steve Roach albums, refined with some vague Far East mystery. With the third cycle the listener is sucked into the sound: a windy vortex from which emerges a nervous sequence based on dynamic bass and a restless, quivering rhythm.
The cycle number four is very short, yet excellent, again referring to the electronic classics. A beautiful melody struggling with drones and yielding to them in the final reckoning. While the finale initially seems the most peaceful and elusive, it’s a very deceptive feeling, because with time the fumes of electric blackness thicken. Though the very ending is again calmer and more melodic.
Manabu Hiramoto is a master craftsman in combining classic electronic sounds and a viscous dark ambient watering all with the subtle atmosphere of the Far East. Let me say it again: great album, with no competition so far this year.