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.