Kazumichi Komatsu – Emboss Star [Album Review]

Music is an art form saturated to breaking point. But for those tired of ageing rock stars and squeaky-clean pop idols, it can sometimes be hard to find music that speaks to you in the right way. Often, you need to dig a little deeper for something truly great. That’s what’s attractive about pressing play on a new album by an unknown artist – You never know what’s going to happen.

Kazumicihi Komatsu, or Madegg as he is sometimes known, is an experimental artist who has been putting out music since 2012. Well in advance of his 30th birthday, he has a clutch of full-length releases already. Emboss Star is the newest of the brood, a sweet gem of delightful weirdness for those who like their ambience with a sprinkling of minor key tension. It’s electronica, mixed with acoustic instruments and distorted vocals, for a short dose of what this interesting artist is capable of.

Though it may be hard to latch onto melodies during Emboss Star, there are a handful of structural leitmotifs that overarch and form vague themes on the album. There’s a nod to droney experimental hip-hop on pieces like Skip and Lipsynch. Tracks like Emory and Orca are two different moods at either end of the same song, with a transitional fuzziness to bridge them. As if you were listening to a radio and slowly turning the dial to another station.

Treating the songs as separate broadcasts is a good way to approach Emboss Star. It’s about the unique warmth of desired solitude. Each song is a transmission from a distant place, perhaps an outpost in the Arctic Circle, or on an island in the Pacific slowly drowning due to rising sea levels. They are self-contained depictions of moods, peppered with field recordings and posthuman voices.

Kumatsu’s guest are sparse, but they appear on arguably the better tracks. Umi Ga Kikoeru has a safer traditional feel than the rest of the album. Kumatsu’s soundtrack of a carefully picked guitar, simple piano and traditional instruments back a duet between Dove and Le Makeup. The singers drift in and out of focus, casting nice contemporary vocal melodies over the hubbub. Followers features Cristal Bere, who sings in English to add a bilingual depth to this record. Followers is the only song which could be seen as an orthodox piece; it is a late album sanctuary of normality.

It’s easy to dismiss music like this as pretentious. “Weird for the sake of being weird” would be an easy capsule review of Emboss Star. What separates this from such cursory appraisals is the authenticity behind every note. Komatsu is not coming at you and telling you how clever he is. He’s putting his art out there and asking you to enjoy and not judge. It’s odd, it’s sometimes jarring, and it’s not gonna sell a million records. But taken for what it is, Emboss Star is a well considered, balanced collection of songs. It’s comfortable with being what it is, and nothing more. That’s the key element that tops off all good music.

Emboss Star by Kazumichi Komatsu is out now:


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