Having learned the violin since the age of three Kumi Takahara is a professionally trained artist who has released See-Through as her debut solo recording.
Having battled through personal tragedy, a move to and from Europe – which included tours out of Vienna – Takahara’s first album has rather inauspicious beginnings.
That being said, finding your Tokyo apartment’s quietest room is also its smallest room and using your ingenuity to soundproof it with towels gives on an insight into her training and dedication. What became the initial demos for See-Through were recorded with a microphone placed above the sink and a laptop perched on the (switched off) washing machine. From the smallest acorn do the mightiest oaks grow.
Now, as much as Takahara is a violinist the amount of piano compared to her instrument of choice is somewhat surprising. Rather than being the main course, the violin is more like a secret ingredient that gives a sense of oomph.
Three songs have, so far, been released as singles from See-Through – Tide, Roll, and Ditty.
With Tide, I’m tempted to say ignore what I just said about piano usage. More or less, it is 100% violin and given its title you really do get a sense of water ebbing and flowing.
The repetitive rhythm of Roll provides a perpetual motion that Takahara’s delicate bowing can riff over. Ditty is the most playful track from the album. The harmonisation between Takahara’s nonsense words and piano playing a as light as a perfectly made sponge.
If you can get a hold of the remixes of the singles by Earth Trax, Zoe Polanski, and Dylan Henner respectively, they are extensions of Takahara’s imagination.
See-Through opens with Artegio. Dainty keying is combined with differentiated strokes on strings, creating a lingering effect as one note is held whilst another begins. Later track Chime has within it an arrangement many will find familiar. It certainly left me in a “what the heck is that?” tip-of-my-tongue state until it finally clicked.
Kai-kou, which translates as ‘Encounter’ begins with mournful and melancholic textures; as it progresses it becomes a much more hopeful piece. It really is, perhaps, the most beautiful song on the album. For me, if there was a video for this the final image as the song ends would be a smiling face slowly lifted directly facing the camera.
As a debut, Takahara has created an album that covers a large part of the emotional spectrum. Heart strings are pulled as keys manipulate piano strings and horsehair is pushed and pulled over violin strings. She is a very talented artist whose abilities and skills are not solely limited to the violin – just check the liner notes. For aus, the founder of FLAU, the label she is signed to, to produce Tide serves as an indication of esteem as well as promise.
See-Through by Kumi Takahara is out now on the FLAU record label, and can be purchased here.