Chihei Hatakeyama discovered ambient music accidentally. Growing up enjoying heavy-rock music throughout the clubs of Japan, he would hear basements and secondary rooms playing what he refers to as “softer music”. Chihei originally set out to recreate in the guise of bands like My Bloody Valentine, but the infamous vocals that accompanied the guitars and gazing became something he couldn’t replicate, often leaving him with just the beat and structure. It was this process of elimination that forced him to explore the freeing creativity once you start to remove the idea of any predetermined limitations. Only then did he realize he was making what other people called ‘ambient’ music.
This trial-and-error is coincidentally the perfect elemental breakdown of Chihei’s ambient work. Distant gauzy guitars and finely tuned electronics weave like the waves of his hometown Kanagawa, creating soft and beautiful ambient music that has no limitations in structure or approach. It’s classically Japanese in its calmness, purity, and refinement, and in Chihei’s appreciation for finding beauty in the every-day (the Japanese art of Sen no Rikyū).
Often using paintings as inspiration, Chihei will start in a similar manner as the painter, by setting a tone and color through his “synthesizer, guitar or effects unit”, further improvising on that sound to make the delicate melody and chords.
With releases on Kranky, Home Normal, Hibernate, Rural Colours, Dronarivm, Room40, Constellation Tatsu, and his own label White Paddy Mountain, Chihei is without a doubt a well revered producer within the ambient music world. Chihei’s latest album returning to Room40, titled Forgotten Hill, is the perfect example of this artistic quality and his overarching influences of place, creating an impressionist meditation on his journey through the Asuka region of Japan; an area known for its burial mounds, epic Buddhist monuments and quietly poetic landscapes.
“A few years ago I went on a trip to the Asuka region. This album, ‘Forgotten Hill’, draws all of its inspiration from this trip. The experiences I had on this journey were used as compositional guides to compile the sonic impressions I experienced during this time.” - Chihei
Like most of Chihei’s work, the album is delivered deep within the details, tone and textures. It’s ambient music at its purest that requires attention if you’re to fulfill the gravitas of the story at hand. And similar to a painting, you can stand and stare at it all day, placing yourself in the mindset and eventual place of Chihei. There are no spectacular technique changes throughout the album - a similar palette is used - but the swells, depth and colors draw you in, ask you to look out, reflect or move on.
For his isolatedmix, Chihei draws on inspirations across the ambient music spectrum. From the early pioneers of Robin Guthrie, Harold Budd, Windy & Carl, to more modern approaches from Burial, Ana Roxanne and Huerco S, alongside fellow Japanese producers Motohiko Hamase, Satoshi Ashikawa, Yumbo and Yutaka Hirose and more contemporary pieces from Hope Sandoval and Julee Cruise.
01. Robin Guthrie & Harold Budd - Neil's Theme
02. Leif - Loom Dream
03. Wilkes - Descending
04. Julee Cruise - Floating
05. Nivhek - After its own death
06. Yutaka Hirose - Taiko
07. Burial - Ghost Hardware
08. Satoshi Ashikawa - Still Way
09. Les Bertucci - Accumulations
10. Suso Saiz - Mexican Bells
11. Ana Roxanne - Nocturne
12. Hope Sandoval & The Warm Inventions - On The Low
13. Lumens & Profits - Coastin
14. Luis Paniagua - Prepartivos Para El Viaje
15. Motohiko Hamase - Elan Vital
16. Jonny Nash - Shell
17. Huerco S / Lifeblood (Naïve Melody)
18. Leyland Kirby Presents V/Vm - Monroes Stockport
19. Windy & Carl -- My Love
20. Rebekah Del Rio - No Star
21. Yumbo - Ishi Ga Full