Home > Music > Susumu Hirasawa – Water in Time and Space (1989)

Susumu Hirasawa – Water in Time and Space (1989)

folderWhat the hell, Microsoft? I used your “Microsoft Home” entertainment and edutainment products in the mid-late 1990s, when I was but a small child, and my reward, 10 years later, is to have this album permanently associated with it. I must have a bunch of logic bombs in my head. To be fair, that brand was pretty eclectic in its offerings, and this album is also eclectic in its overall range of sound (although that comes at expense of aesthetic coherence – see Aurora, amongst others for that.), but at its heart, it’s basically just a half-electronic, half-symphonic pop album. If you’ve been paying attention to what I write about Hirasawa’s various works, you’ll note that I have a place in my blizzard-swept, extreme metal loving heart for that sort of thing sometimes.

Water in Time and Space has some interesting historical surroundings to it – for instance, it contains three songs that were originally intended for a canceled P-Model album that fans are apparently still bitter about. The ‘aesthetic coherence’ problem is arguably at least partially solved by the multitude of rerecordings these songs have seen, albeit piecemeal and spread over the rest of Hirasawa’s career. Recently, some kind soul on Wikipedia has put up lengthy historical notes on Hirasawa’s first four albums (which should remain in the revisions even if formally removed), so those who are particularly interested in the historical aspects of this work will definitely find those to their interest.

At this point, it’s worth noting I don’t write about Susumu Hirasawa very often for various reasons. Firstly, I discovered him in my “find a few bands/artists and acquire everything they’ve done” phase, which meant that I also had to learn as much about him as I could. Secondly, as a Japanese musician who isn’t very popular in the states, it’s simultaneously difficult to find background trivia, so even if I’ve learned more about him than the average person (what an achievement!), I’m still going to feel like I have huge holes in my backstory. Similar things have happened with Magma – I think the key is artists who build their works on huge underlying mythologies. Hirasawa’s is not as narrative in nature as Magma’s is, but listening to any of his albums is like getting smashed in the head with a big dose of transhumanism and Asiaphilia.

On the other hand, a lot of that doesn’t really apply to Water in Time and Space. Major elements of Susumu Hirasawa’s sound, like the improvised guitar solos and sound collage are present, but the more standard symphonic pop sound this album so heavily embraces is comparatively normal in contrast to what lies ahead. This relative lack of weirdness is weird, especially when it results in songs like “Root of the Spirit” (the second track). This, along with “Solar Ray” and “Dune” I can not help but mislabel as Encartacore. Personal insanity aside, I think the fused associations come from the what I just mentioned – in the case of the three mentioned, it’s mostly the sound collage, slightly extended verse-chorus song structures, and the slightly dated (but entirely acceptable) production. In short, everything here reminds me of early computer multimedia, which had a certain novelty value and was often swept aside by the advances of technology. Since at least the synthesizers used to make this album are long since obsolete, modern listeners may have to rely primarily on the compositional strengths of this album to curry their interest.

Either way, Water in Time and Space lacks a common aesthetic. To be fair, Susumu Hirasawa’s next few solo albums also lack aesthetic unity, but P-MODEL never really had that problem. Then again, they never really stuck with one approach to their sound. I don’t think people would really complain if I described this album as part of Hirasawa’s attempts to forge his own identity as a composer. Given that lots of P-MODEL’s members went on to do their own solo albums, I figure that the 1980s incarnation of the band, at least, was more of an ensemble project. As a result, Water in Time and Space probably contains more experiments per square acre than most of Hirasawa’s work. Songwriting quality remains consistent in spite of this, but there aren’t any really awe-inspiring tracks. It probably isn’t a good introduction to Hirasawa, but it would at least be a good second album.

Highlights: “Root of the Spirit”, “Coyote”, “Solar Ray”, “Frozen Beach”

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  1. 2014/01/10 at 14:40

    As far as a “relative lack of weirdness” – depends a lot on how you’re defining that if you ask me. There’s a section of songs in the middle – “Solar Ray”, “No Workshop”, and “Dune”, which all strike me as being very odd. “Solar Ray” feels essentially like a pop song, but it may use a pentonic scale (my knowledge of this is not too great, but that sure as hell doesn’t feel like standard tuning to me) that gives it a prickly, off-key feeling to it. “No Workshop” shows off an odd trick I noticed he was doing a lot for this album (and the next couple, plus a few songs on One Pattern), where it features a guitar riff that sounds like it’s going to take off in its second half but just kind of sputters out. Plus it has such a manic chorus that sorta comes out of nowhere. “Dune” is kind of similar in that it feels like it’s going to be very majestic but kind of trips up under itself. The chord progression is very strange.

    Hirasawa’s first 3 solo albums are fascinating to me – I feel like he really went on a roll starting with Aurora, from which point his albums would start to sound much much better (I disagree that the production on this one is “acceptable”…it sounds awful to my ears), but these first ones are interesting because it doesn’t feel like he figured out his sound yet. There’s a “demented carnival” atmosphere to a lot of this (again, including One Pattern) that interestingly enough would show up on albums like Byakkoya much later down the road.

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