I know nothing of Opitope or any of their personnel, so hopefully I will be forgiven for not being able to comment on their background or past works, save for their brief introduction on “Small Melodies” on Spekk a couple of years back. However, Spekk have now gained considerable ground by releasing distinguished works by relative newcomers, and this is no exception. Opitope are a Japanese duo, Tomoyoshi Date, and Chihei Hatakeyama, helped out by one Syouhei Hatakeyama. The instrumentation here is a fairly traditional set up of acoustic and electric guitars, keyboards, piano, and occasional electronics, the composition, however, is far from typical, but is uniquely Japanese in its stripped- back approach, resembling the audible equivalent of the Japanese chadō tea ceremony, with its fine attention to pace and ritualistic detail.
I think it would be fair to say that there are certain parallels to be drawn to fellow countrymen such as Minamo, Fourcolour, or Motion to name but a few, and Opitope are certainly the spiritual equivalent of any of these artists. Once again, there is a deeply Zen-like quality to these pieces, as reflected in the beautifully entitled “Trees reflecting on the surface of the lake”, or “Bird standing on the fall”. In fact, these are pastoral works, rendered in aural watercolour washes that summon up the serenity and solitude of a Japanese stone garden, or days spent in warmth and sunshine, basking by water. Now that may sound a little trite or airy-fairy, but Opitope pull off these visionary tracts with skill and a lightness of touch that rarely lapses into cliché..although I am slightly discouraged by the ever growing number of artists that fall back on stock textural techniques like birdsong or flowing water to give their work a feel of tranquility and serenity.
My favourite moments on this album are ” a Goat’s Horn” that uses vibraphone and sampled electronics woven into the sound of insects to create a rich, sensuous soundscape, and “Mist on the Sea”, with it’s inverted sampled guitar, draped over shimmering electronics, occasional blips, warblings, and distant voices by water…sublime. Overall then, another successful release by Spekk, and one that will, I am sure, put Opitope firmly on the map for minimalism. BGN