Robin Guthrie

isolatedmix 93 - Chihei Hatakeyama


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

Chihei Hatakeyama | Website | Bandcamp | Discogs


isolatedmix 79 - Autumn Of Communion

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Mick Chillage and Lee Norris come together as Autumn Of Communion. Between them, their music stretches into the deepest roots of modern ambient music.

Lee Norris' monikers range from the cult 90's electronica of Metamatics and Norken, through to the beautiful tones of The Angling Loser - a collective of ambient artists that also includes Porya Hatami and Will Bolton. Lee's also helming the ...txt label, which has played home to many AOC releases and just recently, a monumental boxset that features the entire AOC discography. ...txt has also presented us with some brilliant albums by Sage Taylor (aka Textural Being) (Raintimeand the more psychedelic ambient sound of Ishq (2016's Fhorm being a fave of mine), as well as becoming home to many of Mick Chillage's productions. 

The label and indeed AOC's sound is no doubt influenced by the legendary FAX label, which also presented Autumn Of Communion's most seminal piece to date, their 2012 self-titled masterpiece. The album was perhaps overshadowed by the unfortunate passing of FAX founder Pete Namlook in 2012, but you can think of no better home, or higher praise for the duo. Mick, is no stranger to this high praise either, with one of the most revered albums on the FAX label, FAXology in 2011, followed by releases on FAX-dedicated output, Carpe Sonum

The web of productions between them both runs deep into some of the genre's best rabbit-holes. Just last week, I was in a record shop in Bellingham WA, at a random second-hand record store. I got talking to the owner about the type of records and artists I was on the hunt for and he said, "I just bought something new last week from Databloem". Sure enough he went on to play a CD and out comes Mick Chillage's 2016 album, Paths. It's the type of music that breaks down boundaries and epitomizes the true early 90's ambient sound and arguably, Autumn Of Communion is the purest distillation of their combined works. 

For isolatedmix 79, the duo wade through some of the genre's finest producers, both old and new. Track-by-track, it's a who's-who of ambient music, but the whole is definitely greater than the sum of its parts - this AOC mix channels the very essence of pure ambient music and the many inspirations behind AOC. 



01. William Basinski - 92982.1
02. Tangerine Dream - Sequent C
03. Ryuichi Sakamoto - Fullmoon
04. David Sylvian - The Healing Place
05. Billow Observatory - Plum
06. Tetsu Inoue - Elevator Drops
07. Dots - Dense
08. Cluster & Eno - Für Luise
09. Autumn Of Communion - Streams Pt4
10. Jochem Paap - Dx-Snth
11. Harold Budd & Robin Guthrie - Twilight

Autumn Of Communion: Bandcamp | Discogs

Artwork/image by Ricardo Gomez Angel