Takashi Wada





The release story of Meguro is a lucky one with a sad note: German label Onitor from Stuttgart spotted the undoubted talent of Takashi Wada from Tokyo back around the year 2004 when they offered him the chance to release his debut album on their label. This is the lucky part of the story for Wada (and for lovers of melodious Ambient music with some dubby basslines and a few beats thrown in at times). The sad note is made up of missed chances, because if a Japanese artist needs to release his debut far abroad and has an abiding respect for that label, it means that other label bosses didn‘t pay attention to their local talent. Anyway, Meguro, which incidentally is the name of a Tokyoite municipality, is divided into two mood sections that complement each other flawlessly: there are, for one, beautiful daylight songs that coax the listener‘s ears with sun-ripened melodies, occasional beats and gentle synth breezes, in two words: carefree excitement.


On the other hand, the matching mood evoked by Wada is that of the night life in Tokyo, which does not, however, resemble the ultrahigh-energetic pumping atmosphere of clubs, bars and street life, but is similar to a more laidback, relaxing mood like that of sky-high lounges, views out of the balcony window or glowing street lights surrounded by technicolored traffic lights, or to say it in yet another two words: distant appraisal. For example, two of the scattered song-pairings on the relase are called 28°C and 19°C, as well as 3am Cityscape and 6pm Cityscape. If all tracks are played in order, Meguro suddenly lifts its disguise and reveals its core: the motif of a day in Meguro, making it a concept album. In fact, Meguro is to this day Wada‘s most Ambient sounding album and is even compared to Kompakt‘s Pop Ambient series. I don‘t agree with this comparison, as Meguro sounds entirely different from the series, and each of its 12 songs would be out of place on that compilation hypothetically. Still, I suppose this comparison is just made for the sake of it and for approval of the shimmering quality of Wada‘s debut, which is without a doubt an Onitor high point and, to my ears, his best album thus far.


3am Cityscape starts the album and is a clear-cut Ambient tune with swirling high-pitched drone sounds, pulsating synth structures and occasional pulses of electronic claves played in a laid-back style. The atmosphere is that of a comfortably quiet city and there is exactly one raindrop falling down, its addition being the biggest surprise in an otherwise positively soothing song. Thumbs up! Morning View is another beatless song and presents a more acoustic approach with an almost Middle Eastern flavor and strings of Oriental instruments or a derivative synthesizer setup. 28°C features a field recording of real rain with isolated digital droplets, a humming female voice and steady, gentle cymbals reminiscent of the Jungle genre. Breakbeats are added later, but the song still keeps its relaxed atmosphere.


One of my favorites is Day (Windy), starting with foggy synth strings, gentle echoey bass drops and clave-like percussion. Even though the bass drops are rhythmical, they just appear every 6 seconds, thus preventing a House feeling to rise. The song slowly builds as swirling synth sounds keep flowing into the mix that would not be out of place in Global Communication‘s masterpiece 76:14. The track keeps its pace and adds more and more layers of synths, culminating in a fantastic fortissimo of a positive, luminescent soundscape. If you want to pre-listen to just one song, let it be Day (Windy). The title track Meguro has a typical Japanese sound to it. What starts as a cozy piano sound in the tradition of Erik Satie‘s Gymnopédie No 1 later becomes the most Jungle-like track of the album. This song is the only disappointment, I think, as the solemn atmosphere is literally crushed by the hectical drums and the added flute. Playful, yes, but also out of place on the album despite the fact that it‘s the title track. One dud out of 12 songs is totally acceptable, though! 


Lights And Water is another gorgeous track, starting with vibrant synth strings that are looped every 12 seconds. A dubby bassline and thumping beats are added, but the song doesn‘t lose its dreamy atmosphere, as it remains its slow pace. Glimmering bell-like noises and bright strings are later added, probably resembling the lights. The song ends with gleaming synth pulses. Lights And Water has been used by Wada as a blueprint for his second album released in 2006, Araki, that unites several songs of the same mood and setup presented here. The same can be said about Modern Architecture, where the synth washes are of a similar quality, while the song is more clubby by nature. The beats are gentle but the percussion is a bit too dominant, bringing hectic and vitality to the album.


With 6pm Cityscape, a slightly clubby atmosphere is entering, here in a 4/4 beat song with lounge-like synths drops, chinking loops of bells, and melodious synth accompaniments in the background. A very good pumping song, but neither a cheesy House track nor an encapsulating Progressive House brethren. Space And Shadow has a Microhouse feeling to it due to its lush, fuzzy synth pulses, but is otherwise once more keen on Jungle percussion. The bongo-resembling drums, however, work particularly great on here, and the steady repetition of the mentioned synth pulses is equally welcome. 19°C is another strong outing, consisting of a steady 6/8 beat with ethereally frizzling background synths echoing Global Communication‘s aforementioned 76:14. Wada‘s typical bright synths enter after two minutes, making this a bright song which is perfectly suitable for a lively night while still retaining the coziness that rules the album. The final track, Sunset, starts with a recording of fountain and cozy evening strings consisting of 4 notes that are looped throughout the song. This is the most dubby song on the album with a powerful bassline and slow percussion. A perfect ending of a marvelous album.


Meguro is spheric, melodious, at times dreamy, but never overly loaded with all too thick synth sounds. Whatever mood Wada comes up with, there‘s always lightness and energetic freshness attached to every song. Some songs break out of the narrow Ambient corset and provide beats in order to make their point, but these pieces are neither of Detroit Techno nor Progressive House origin; it is their point to make the listener slightly cozy or drowsy, but they don‘t confront him or her with deepness and endlessness. For me, this album is essential and I keep coming back to it regularly. As I say every so often, if you like melodious Ambient music with a dub and beat approach, this is it. There‘s no particular Japanese flavor attached to it, just beautiful music that brightens the day and illuminates the night with each song‘s endemic atmosphere.


Ambient Review 021: Takashi Wada – Meguro (2004). Originally published on Jan. 4, 2012 at AmbientExotica.com