Home > Music > Quickie: Susumu Hirasawa – Aurora (1994)

Quickie: Susumu Hirasawa – Aurora (1994)

This was one of the things I was listening to in late 2008/early 2009. The rest of it was mostly ’80s New Wave and progressive rock. Outside of Susumu Hirasawa being in P-Model, and having a band called Mandrake in his college days, this doesn’t really fit into either.

It is, however, fairly representative of the formula that he would adopt as a solo artist (and to a lesser extent, in P-Model’s late ’90s works) – atmospheric pop music with significant electronic elements, East Asian garnishings, and a fairly large amount of improvisatory guitar solos. The former is on full display here, the second is basically nonexistent (There are more Western symphonic thingies like were present on the previous three solo albums) , and the latter is a relatively constant part of his sound.

Prior to this, P-Model was producing high speed synthpop reminiscent of earlier days – their 1994 album “Way of Live” consisted entirely of rerecordings of their songs from the 1980s in this style. But in 1995, they released “Fune”, which was less minimalistic, slower, and had some ambient compositions like “Mirror Image”. If Hirasawa wasn’t the one constant member of P-Model, this probably wouldn’t have happened, but P-Model DID go through a significant lineup change at this period, and the albums after Fune sound like a hybrid of the two styles.

Anyways, this album manages to be both typical and atypical of Hirasawa’s compositional methods. I wouldn’t know for sure (mainly since I’m not even remotely fluent in Japanese), but I believe that this is when Hirasawa shifted towards significant use of archaic Japanese in his lyrics. It may be the least “straightforward” album he put out, at least until ICE-9 (an EP of guitar improv and soundscapes). It’s definitely the most ambient, and probably one of the softest – outside of the militant “Take the Wheel” (which was slightly rewritten into the theme song of the anime Berserk), it contains very laid back songs like “Love Song” and “Island Door/Paranesian Circle”. Definitely mood music. This is good stuff, but I believe that Hirasawa improved on the formula on the later albums “Technique of Relief” and “Philosopher’s Propeller”. The two solo albums after that were more rock-oriented, but that’s another quickie.

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  1. 2011/03/17 at 17:38

    Thanks for this. I got into P-Model mostly because Polysics had covered one of their songs (and basically channeled/ripped off the spirit of the early band) so I grabbed their first two albums and enjoyed them, but didn’t really persue them because I thought they were just a quirky, basically good but kind of a novelty type band like Plastics. Randomly I started to watch Youtube videos and I wound up hearing songs like “Enola”, “Archetype Engine”, and “Logic Airforce”, and whoa, that’s the same guy?? Nowadays SH is one of my favorite musicians, period, although I have only heard his first 5 solo albums. I really cannot get past the fact that he was able to release this album, Fune, and Sim City in a period of two years. These are very deep, complex, and melodically rich albums.

    As for Aurora – I kind of saw it as a reaction to the high-speed and energetic atmosphere of P-Model and Big Body. You are right that it is kind of straightforward (did you mean “most”, instead of “least”?) but there is a focus here that he didn’t really have before. His first three solo albums are good, but they are kind of scattershot and disjointed, and I didn’t think he put too much thought into the way they sounded. On the other hand, Aurora is a very beautifully produced album and to me represents the beginning of the “next level” of Hirasawa. You forgot to mention that in addition to being soothing there are actually some really great hooks on this disc, especially on the second half. “Snow Blind” is brilliant, as are the next two tracks “The Double of Wind” (?) and “In the Square”. The final track “Ringing Bell” is almost overwhelmingly emotional. Sometimes when it comes on I have to shut it off; it is kind of like the best parts of Eno’s Another Green World or Apollo. Oh yeah, good songs on the first half too.

    I guess I’ve written too much but I don’t think you’ll get many responses on this anyway, which sucks. I am glad that he is getting some popularity due to his connection with Satoshi Kon, but I’ve never seen those movies and kind of get the impression that his actual albums are far better than the soundtrack work. If you are talking about music fans, even those who know a lot of Japanese music, he’s practically an unknown. So do writeups on more of his albums and get the word out!! Thank you

    • 2011/03/18 at 14:48

      I heard of P-Model/Hirasawa through the same channels, interestingly enough.

  1. 2013/09/05 at 00:28

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