Tetsu Inoue






In regard to Tetsu Inoue's Inland, I'm totally biased, let me tell you this in advance. Finally, Inoue harks back to extremely lush, mellow and thick Ambient soundscapes. While his 2005 release Yolo is of similar quality and a good foreshadowing device to Inland, it was much more fragile and monotonous in large parts. This isn't a bad thing at all, and I keep coming back to Yolo's tracks Remote and Sour Cloud all the time, as they are two of Inoue's more synth-heavy pieces. However, Inland is simply the most advanced album. Inoue manages to come up with a successful combination of two distinctive moods: while most of his tracks are absolutely gorgeous and ethereal, they aren't cold or airy; they are rather incredibly comforting and warm. There's a very small path between the ethereal loftiness and mellow warmth in each of Inland's 8 tracks, and Inoue oscillates with awe-inspiring ease between the two ends of that path. If you're searching for mellow Ambient music that occasionally swallows the listener and tucks him or her in despite the feather-like lightness, this is one album that I'd recommend without hesitation.

Mini Moon opens the album and yes, it fades in slowly as is the case with thousands of other Ambient openers; however, the importance of the first 10 seconds of Mini Moon in relation to Inoue's work cannot be underestimated, for the artist already extrapolates the shift of focus immediately. While Mini Moon features the warm, fragile and monotonous trademark synth string by Inoue, this string is accompanied right from the start by the pulsating glints of the synth pads that sound fuller and richer texturized, reaching as far back as to Inoue's sound works of the early 90's. These pulsating synth pads are again in constant interplay with beautiful bells, corsuscating sparkles and high-pitched dots of contentment. Far away wind noises and vibrating serpentines of bass drones add deepness to the mellow setup. Despite the richness of the mix, there are always short-term fissures and spaces which allow the synths to reverberate slowly – it furthermore transports the concept of oscillation between sound and space, another important peculiarity of the artist's music. Mini Moon is an utterly gorgeous opener. You cannot grasp a distinct melody, but even at the first listen one realizes the overarching setting that is inherent in all of Inland's tracks, the mixture of tranquility and joy. Tree And Me is next, and merges glowingly ethereal but warm synthscapes with the two remaining attributes of Inoue's music that were missing until now; for one, there are the quavering and tremoling strings that add a pinch of fragility, and secondly there's the gentle clicks and crackles that appear occasionally, but all in all less frequently than on Inoue's other albums and collaborations. The song itself introduces these elements in an equally peaceful surrounding, making Tree And Me another winner. Coming up next is Zen, and it is a towering track! Casio-like pulses are intertwined with galactical, monotonous synth strings and another layer of pristine, ecstatic strings that are tremendously beautiful and soothing. This setup remains for the whole runtime and is at times enhanced by blurry hisses and fading reverberations. This is the warmest track of the album, and if you listen carefully, you can distill the warm and fragile synth washes that are included many times in his work. The fourth track is over 7 minutes long and is called Kaze. It resembles the shimmering purity of a crystal. Scintillating pulses can be heard in the background, while vestigial but beautiful synth pads act represent beams of reflected light. Later on, modulated rain pads are added. This is the most fragile track of the album and is at the same time more reduced in its presentation. The track would have been a fitting track in Yolo as well.

Peak is the next standout track for me, even though all tracks are equally well produced and coherent. It is surprisingly similar to the aforementioned Sour Cloud off Yolo and starts with a hectically whirling, somewhat dark but not spooky synth line that is later complemented by dubby bass strings and, 60 seconds into the song, by a fantastically clean and mesmerizing synth string. After this first peak – nomen est omen – this string is carefully modulated and starts to shiver for short time. What remains afterwards are the warm, monotonous strings and the distant flitterings of glistening synth swarms. The darker, whirling synth lines re-appear once more before the track is faded out in major. Symphony H2O starts with robot-like sounds and almost organic pulses with the addition of fuzzy angelic strings. The whole track is quite peaceful and reduced, making room for the crackles to shine and the synth strings to swell. This could be considered the weakest track of the album, but only due to its reduced amount of textures. Its reduction doesn't inherit the bold vividness and richness which Inland presented thus far, but the relative hollowness of this track is remarkable anyway. Wabi starts icily with howling synths and clanging streams of frost but moves into warmer territory very soon with minimal pulses and the inclusion of a saturated, full string. Robotic voices are pitched and altered gently, and the song moves to auieter territory, making room for wind whooshes and a second appearance of deep synth bells. Overlook is the final 12-minute piece and starts with prominent wind sounds that are soon exchanged with warm minimal but polyphonous strings. Ecstatic synth strings appear in the background, but they are very quiet and are only put in the limelight after almost 3 minutes. Various synth strings are floating by, and since this is a new concept that is brought into the album, it is a welcome change of formula. Thick drones interchange with fragile and full strings time and again. However, each and every presented synth fits and is played long enough to create a soothing atmosphere, ending the album on a more varied, but still coherent note.

Inland is a gargantuan album. As its name suggests, the structure and sound design helps the listener to take a relaxing journey into his or her being and existence. It is tremendously cozy, and no track is out of place or alienating. In fact, each track is a winner, even the redued
Symphony H2O which is only underwhelming in comparison to the remaining 7 tracks in which Inoue marries his reduced style of warm strings and occasional crackles with a lavish amount of thick synths, all of them glowing brightly and warmly. While some of them seem to be airy and ethereal, this impression is only temporary, as stated before, and is remedied by a warmer modulation and additional layers of warmth and contentment. This is simply Inoue's most beautiful album, and if you like harmonious interplays of luxurious synth washes and spacious sections of relative peace with reverberated strings and whispering clicks, this is one of the best choices you can pick. To me, this album is a masterpiece. It stands any test of time, and is a hallmark of Ambient music that is solely created in order for you to relax and be mesmerized. There's wittier and more dynamic Ambient music out there, no question, but Inoue's approach differs from that. Definitely recommended for Ambient fans who want to take a sumptuous journey and be washed away by the synths.




Ambient Review 067: Tetsu Inoue – Inland (2007). Originally published on May 9, 2012 at AmbientExotica.com.