Takanobu Hoshino’s art, whether painting, photography, sculpture or sound, is an art of subtle clarity and clear simplicity. This isn’t to say the results are without depth or mystery however, because a consistency of intention lies at the heart of the 10 tracks on Ancient star stories of Asia, Takanobu’s new solo release on his own OtO label.
I have one of Takanobu’s black and white photographs at home. It is a street lamp shining in a winter night. I imagine there is snow in the sky and the still air carries a chill. This is the kind of direct appeal to the senses that is prevalent in his work. There are no overt juxtapositions or harsh clashes of contrast, just a pared down depiction of a kind of isolation.
The cover of Ancient star story of Asia is a Hoshino collage. A curious fish shaped object hovers above a black, paint spattered square of night sky. Below this are three tiny symbolic looking objects. The whole effect is a perfect encapsulation of the motifs contained on the disc.
In Ancient star story of Asia there is water and a velvet black firmament full of stars, and the stars form constellations, which in turn are signs. They might be used for navigation or as aids to ancient rituals which allow gods to communicate with men. These skywritten cryptograms spell the arcane histories and folk memories of the Asian people.
Track 2, entitled Vietnam (tanabata), suddenly erupts with some unknown, terrifying force assaulting the senses and saturating the ears. It comes as something of a shock. Tanabata is a Japanese festival concerning the stars Vega and Altair and a tale of lovers allowed to meet only once a year, on the 7th day of the seventh month.
Bound in space and water, bird calls and wind, there are ceremonial rhythms and unknown purposes implicated in the compositions here. Shunning the use of computer processing or MIDI instrumentation, Takanobu uses three different kinds of Jew’s harp (a mouth resonated instrument that creates a metallic and somewhat insectoid sound) to punctuate some of the pieces with human input. The harps used come from Vietnam and Japan and speak a language that seems to have been borrowed from grasshoppers and locusts.
Track 7, Japan (amanoiwato), contains a passage of beautiful, tiny bell like sounds against a backdrop of buzzing, whirring , gentle alarms. Amanoiwato refers to the cave in which the sun goddess Amaterasu hid herself, thus plunging the world into darkness.
China, Vietnam, Japan, India and Polynesia: Their Ancient star stories dreamed into sound. This is an album full of secrets that holds together with consistency and integrity.