Having spent a good while away from the spotlight, primarily producing other artists, Mark Barrott now releases a new solo offering. The album contains a suite of music commissioned in 2019 for the as yet unreleased documentary, Johatsu – a feature focused on the Japanese phenomenon of the same name, where people seem to simply disappear. Leaving their daily lives, without any trace or warning. Something that is thought to be driven by the country’s traditionally crazy work ethic, and a heavily ingrained fear of failure, one of the symptoms of a culture tightly constricted by a sense of public shame. Hundreds of thousands of Japanese people “evaporate” every year. There are even companies – Yonige-Ya – who will help you vanish. These “fly-by-night” shops providing one of Mark`s tracks with its title. An appropriately dramatic moment, its rhythmic collisions recalling past Motor City musical milestones, such as those of Detroit Escalator Co. and Carl Craig`s Landcruising.
My guess is that, in private, Mark`s been listening to a lot of jazz. The synthesized chimes and choirs of Kyoto are accompanied by strings and syncopated cymbals that place the piece somewhere between Sault`s amazing Air and Floating Points` rightly lauded Elaenia. Icarus comes with Brian Nathanson`s Miles Davis-esque horn and Richard Dunmore`s aching, arching, Ebow guitar, and moves to a definite Cinematic Orchestra-like swing.
As part of the press kit, you`re made privy to the film director`s original prompts and cues. Shinrin-yoko – roughly translated as “lost in the forest” – for example, lists “a search for answers”, “reflections on a rainy day” – words that Mark transforms into a careful, patient, composition for intimately mic`d piano, and subtle suggestions of woodwinds, supplied by The Bernabau Quintet. On Kill All Ghosts, “serenity” is conveyed by manipulated metallic timbres, similar to those found on Japan’s Tin Drum, while a Vangelis-like rotor-blade rushing represents “inner storms”. The closing Kamikakushi – in English, “spirited away” – relays “redemption”, “acceptance”, and “new beginnings”, as a ceremonial, almost hymn-like, sacred sequence of resonance and sustain.
Mark Barrott`s Johatsu is available digitally, exclusively on Bandcamp. There will also be a very limited cassette and vinyl run.