Music From Memory, and co-complier Eiji Taniguchi, have set about the sizable task of cherry-picking through the back catalogue of Japanese artist, Dream Dolphin. Whittling down 20 CDs worth of material, released between 1996 and 2003, to just 15 tracks. The retrospective is sequenced in such a way that the music appears to be divided into 3 sections. The opening selections perhaps best described as new age, sorta Suzanne Ciani syntheses, full of sustained singing bowl sequences and the percussive plucking of ancestral instruments. Creating a temple-like air, and suggesting the precision and patience of the music that accompanies No theatre. The layered work featuring machines mimicking fresh running water, animal calls, the wind, a breeze blowing through trees. Great gongs sound, and the rhythm is often little more than a shaken tambourine. Religious chants are repurposed, and synthetic strings sigh, rise and fall. Most of the pieces are characterized by spoken, whispered, prose.
The songs, though, get progressively trippier. Trance-y, but still chilled. Beats are introduced, and a bottom-end throb. On Iruka Tachi To Asonda Kioku – Under Water this is an acidic chug. Tour 5 Modern Blue Asia-Soundscapes For Ocean Therapy is part the “ambient pop” of Enigma, and part the moody, magnificent downtempo techno of Max 404’s Quiddity. Kim Cascone’s Heavenly Music Corporation remix L.E.A. into a shimmering icy atmosphere. In several places there are fanfare like phrases, parps and riffs from what could be reeds. On Rain these feel more ceremonial, a thighbone trumpet, or even bagpipes, rather than a saxophone or clarinet. Cosmic Blue mixes rap with, appropriately, the squeaks of dolphins communicating.
The third and final phase, amid sampled surf and seabirds, flirts with `90s “paradise house”. It’s in these closing numbers that the album is at its catchiest, most accessible, as it translates “sueno latinos” into “nihon no yume”. Love Ate Alien is an English language tone poem that floats on blue-skied chords and swirling synths. Daichi No Uta (Song Of The Land) sets a celebratory traditional chorus to the boom of a big bass drum, and funky 303 fluctuations, like Japanese take on Transglobal Underground’s Balearic classic, Templehead.
Dream Dolphin / Gaia: Selected Ambient & Downtempo Works (1996 – 2003) can be pre-orderd from Music From Memory.