Hisato Higuchi Dialogue
Tokyo’s Hisato Higuchi has been a busy guy lately. In quite a short time, he released his debut CD EP, followed by a live CD, and now Family Vineyard here in the U.S. has put out his latest, Dialogue. Like his others, this CD is relatively brief, at 36 minutes. It’s very wise of Higuchi to keep things on the shorter side. A full 70+ minutes of almost anyone is too long, and brevity works particularly well for Higuchi’s sound.
Each of the songs here is short; they spin by quickly, yet it feels longer than it is because of Higuchi’s pacing and style. Just electric guitar and, sometimes, voice, these pieces are sparse yet atmospheric. Their sound is much like the photographs adorning this release: minimal and dark, each note like a separate light experienced from a distance. Some comparisons have been made with Keiji Haino, but Loren Connors is a better reference point. Even there, however, Connors’ skeletal blues is a ways from Higuchi’s atmospheric strumming.
The numbered songs named “Guitar” and “Breath” are self-evident, short sketches focused on, of course, guitar or breathy vocals. “Breath #2” is notable for its, well, creepiness. Eerie long breaths and wordless tonal singing, it creates a rather uneasy aura. “Guitar #3” is the most extroverted track here, adding some distortion and fire to the proceedings and showing that Higuchi can add more intensity when he feels so inclined.
Others include “Kizuato,” its guitar typical of Higuchi — soft but not murky, like normal guitar playing with the edges rubbed down until it’s muted and smooth, the guitar equivalent of driftwood. “Watashi wa Asa o Matteita” (I’m Waiting for Morning) is a good representative piece, three minutes of slow, careful playing that’s certainly appropriate for play at dawn.
I have to admit that my feelings about Dialogue vary depending on my mood. There are times when its creeping tones seem just right, then there are other occasions when Higuchi’s playing feels too restrained. He walks a fine line, on one side of which lies a unique, ghostly atmosphere; and on the other, restraint that keeps the listener from feeling emotion. Music is communication, and if the player holds too much back it can leave emptiness behind. Dialogue mostly walks the right side of the line, but sometimes I wish for a bit more intensity.