Album Review: Federico Durand and Chihei Hatakeyama - Sora

2017 is shaping up to be a most prolific year for the Argentinian experimental and ambient composer Federico Durand.

Mere weeks ago, he released Pavel, and arriving ahead of his forthcoming LP from 12k Records, due out in April, Durand is reteaming with likeminded Japanese artist Chihei Hatakeyama for Sora, a five track collection that finds both artists continuing the collaboration they began in 2015 with Magical Imaginary Child. 

Sora, which means “sky” in Japanese, was created with both artists exchanging ideas and sounds over email, and throughout the course of this effort, Durand and Hatakeyama explore the different layers and facets of experimental and ambient music, as well as the myriad emotions and imagery that comes along with it all.

Like much of Durand’s solo work, Sora is no different in its ability to play with sounds that capture a childlike whimsy at times all while teetering into other, slightly darker and more serious territories. The opening piece, “Ana,” sprawls across a twelve minute running time, with a fragile main sample that cascades into a growing pool of echoes and low, warm synthesizer tones that carry it through until the end.

“Natsu” is one of the two shorter pieces on the record—and by shorter, I mean it’s just slightly over nine minutes—and it’s structured around glacially paced, somber synthesizer tones, designed to evoke all kinds of bittersweet nostalgia as they rise and fall over the top of you.

Channeling the aforementioned childlike whimsy and innocence that Durand works into a bulk of his solo efforts, “Luisa” takes that, and adds just enough reverb to the chintzy sounding loop of what could be a music box, and tosses a low synth rumble underneath. In doing so, it takes that whimsy and turns it into something stark and unsettling, like a strange, fragmented dream that you are unable to wake from.

The effort’s shortest track, “Kisa,” finds Durand and Hatakeyama on some straight up Basinski shit, working with a decaying tape loop, while the closing piece, “Ilse” (also the longest of the five), finds the two sustaining quiet, twinkling sounds, bringing the effort to a reflective close.

Like all successful ambient and experimental music, Sora is a transformative listening experience. Throughout all of its ebbs and flows, it maintains its hypnotic abilities, allowing the listener to simply become lost in what they are hearing. And following how enjoyable their last joint effort was, this is also a welcome return for the collaboration between Katakeyama and Durand, working together so seamlessly that it is difficult to surmise who contributed what ideas to each piece.

Sora is out now as a digital download or a compact disc, via White Paddy Mountain.