Your Small Story






Your Small Story is the first full-length effort of Masahi or Masashi Shiraishi aka 3+ after a timespan of more than four years (make that 3+ years, hehe). The artist whose name exists in two spelling variations resides in Ishikari City north of Sapporo, Japan. And indeed, Far Eastern tone sequences are all over his album which is released in April 2013 on Gavin Catling's Perth-based Twice Removed label. The strict focus on international musicians rather than the sole boost of Australian artists pays off time and again, and Shiraishi's album adds something new to the dreamy Ambientscapes of the Drone style the label is primarily known for. This wonderful twist is quite close to my heart: thanks to 3+, the Glitch genre enters the scenery of Twice Removed, but fear not, as it is carefully meshed with warm drones of the synth kind and acoustic instruments such as guitars, music boxes, glockenspiels and harmonicas. An album title such as Your Small Story does not sound intriguing at first sight, but gentleness, amicability and warmth altogether ought to win skilled listeners over. But wait, isn't the Glitch genre mostly about colder bursts, glacial clicks and static noise eruptions? Sure thing, but this is where Shiraishi's Japanese origin comes into play which is further interpolated by collaborators like bassist Kenichiro Ishihara and violinist Mari Inoue, among others3+ and his cohorts come up with astonishingly catchy melodies or fleeting fragments thereof which are then elevated by electrifying sprinkles and arpeggiated tones. Occasionally, Your Small Story drifts into hectic territories, but always remains genteel, embracing, positively picayune and purposely humble. Nature and beauty as well as the art of Ikebana are cited by 3+ as his influences, and these fields of graceful knowledge form the base of the album. There is a certain friskiness with traces of purity that only musicians from the Far East tend to advect into their sounds, resulting in a bustling stringency. One track, however, breaks the spell of cohesion and continuity, and everyone who hears it will know what I mean. The humbleness and gentle aura suddenly blusters, becomes bolstered and polylayered. Your Small Story may not be so small after all and hold a few genuine surprises in store.


Heaven Of The Universe is the aptly titled gateway to the synergetic world of fusionist Masahi Shiraishi. Piercing sine waves and crystalline shards create a pristine purity of the digital kind, but 30 seconds into the arrangement, the harsher and brazen feel sees itself wondrously entangled in gorgeously euphonious and warm synth washes, orange-tinted Sunday afternoon guitar layers and rising faux-Hammond organ protuberances in the distance. The balancing between the soaring oscillation of the legato sine aortas and the benign embracement of the daedal synth susurrations boosts the organic feel, shifting between warmheartedly spectral figments in tandem with violin tercets and an elysian loftiness complete with music box spirals that float over the crevasses. The various textures work well together, but it is the melodies and the blissful state they create which outshine the diversion. This is Glitch all right, but with a strong tendency towards Pop. Reciter (Wind Hill) resides in similar fields awash with sunlight, but here the uplifting bonfire mentality and its implied cavalcade of dusky colors is exposed thanks to much more prominently featured guitar licks which serve as the base frame for the arpeggiated and reversely played riffs as well as for the diffusely fluorescing vibraphone sparks. It is completed by its fitting foil at a later stage of the album, but more about this in a few minutes. Little Sister Story, however, revs up the dichotomy while remaining cohesive and snugly, comprising of lullaby-resembling music box melodies, gentle static noise fragments here and there and lachrymose string concoctions. The Lo-Fi approach breaks the illusion of utter enchantment, for the creaking vinyl crackles and deliberate distortion artifacts in the higher tone regions are additions well-known to Glitch followers. The unfolding 16-bit feeling is delicately entwined with the incessant coruscation. This tune gleams, twinkles and lives up to its title. Voice Of Fancy (One Day In Spring) is Shiraishi’s addendum to Little Sister Story with a similarly plinking physiognomy that is now submerged within a quaintly shrine-evoking circumambience of crepuscular strings and sine waves. The color range and timbre now reside in pastel colors. Instead of distinct melodies, blurry half-tone erections and oozing runlets mesh with the sparkling devices and create a solemn mystique.


Memorable strains come back full force in the auspiciously titled Your Small Melodys which establishes an impressive superimposition of equally supercharged glockenspiels and music box-fueled glacial pulses, glinting scintillae, bit-crushed gongs, galactic wind chimes and ice blue modicums. Everything is translucent and illumines all other partaking devices. A soft 4/4 beat structure then accompanies the roundelay, Glitch flecks and spacey washes accentuate a mellifluous flute melody, short bass blebs – a first on the album – augment the mild-mannered effervescence. During each second there is something collapsing, popping or sliding. The song culminates in a flute crescendo before it ends with cascades of echoey birds and field recordings. From a stylistic viewpoint, the following Hamming Birds revisits the theme of plucking guitars and their golden appearance that already kindled the aural landscape of Reciter (Wind Hill). On Hamming Birds, the guitar is almost harpsichord-like, is joined by limewashed sine billows and wooden-crunchy tick-tocking pendulums. The plasticity of the guitar towers above the hazy backdrop, consists of eight notes which are occasionally perturbed by digital artifacts and stumbling rhythm shifts, but unleashes an omnipresently baroque warmth. Specks and vesicles gyrate around the luminescence like curious insects. Shiraishi merges Drone, Glitch and electro-acoustic traits and creates an equilibrium. Up next is Sunset Calm Way Home, and the insectoid nature is again applied in its setting which glisters and blazes in a different manner, but this time it is not due to the gelid music box dots rather than the clicks and cuts, the jitters and frizzles which mimic crawling critters. Transfiguring guitar melodies, adjoin misty piano waves and a quirky, at times deliberately dissonant harmonica theme interpolate the feeling of contentment and carefreeness, expand the rambling rusticity and leave the listener with an intrinsic smile. Even though we live in a global village, soundscapes like this tend to be created in Japan only. A wonderful gem.


It is the centerpiece Lost Angel of almost eight minutes which bewilders and dazzles the humble reviewer, for it seems to be taken from another album or another time, targeting Drone fans specifically. Whereas each of the precedent tracks was coltish and traversed by several holes and patterns through which the decay of each sound could escape, Lost Angel is a grave legato piece with a threefold batting of synth washes and string infusions. The trembling appearance does not camouflage the fact that this piece is de trop and incongruous in the given overarching theme. It feels like a presentiment, its microscopic apexes as well as the intricate rises and falls unchain an ignis fatuus in minor. However, this is no criticism, for the continuous ebb-and-flow structure allows the Japanese artist to fathom out different surfaces and the virtue of the interplay between the quieter phases and the louder zeniths. Demonic, post-apocalyptic clouds, sanguine mirages, ethereal chimeras and stokehold drones exude, vanish and build anew. The latter half introduces aqueous arpeggio apparitions in adjacency to the intensive airflows, and this pulsating placenta remains the last thing one hears, as everything else fades out discreetly. This is undoubtedly the standout track of the album, but to be perfectly honest, I do not know whether this is a good thing in this particular case, for the careful or downright adamant balance Masahi Shiraishi has maintained thus far is purposefully hurt. There must be a reason for the inclusion of Lost Angel, and this enigma becomes increasingly intriguing the more I am pondering. In the meantime, the penultimate Reciter (Sunset Of Sorrow) harks back to the second track and places a rural, much more exhilarative guitar helix in front of a black background which is partially illuminated by the sustain phases of each tone. The finale is called End Of Sister and may have a pernicious track title, but turns out to be another, quite blithely surprise. Similar to Takashi Wada’s or Squarepusher’s Drum and Bass-mimicking rhythm patterns, Shiraishi’s apotheosis begins humbly with the expected glitzscape of music boxes, glockenspiels, vibraphones, whistles and other star dust-evoking devices in juxtaposition to darker sine tones before a Glitch-injected Jungle pattern is presented. While the luminous jots and tittles continue to gyre, bursts of synth jingles, turbulent AM radio frequencies and eclectic beat frameworks keep the arrangement bubbling. The gong of a wall clock marks the end of the album, with the glittering music box fragments slowly fading away for good.


Everything on Your Small Story is interwoven in order to nullify any appearance of megalomania, gargantuan proportions or cliffhangers of grandiloquence. Be it the ubiquitously vesiculating glints, clicks and slivers, the colorful guitar serpentines with their reduced energetic vigor or the completely enthralling synth capsules, 3+ and his collaborators make sure that the joy of life is depicted in its decidedly hatched glory. The fragile gestalts are built on bubbling melodies of the Pop kind, the various aural states of light, illumination and luminosity unfold in the shape of droplets and plinking molecules which whirr either jocularly and gleefully or mystically and deceivingly around the perceived wideness of each track. The silence of the background is never as threatening or perturbing as in Oliwa's Naturalia (2013, Twice Removed), but constantly lit and eventually fend off by the colorful range. Your Small Story is a synergetic work that defies any means to attach a specific genre to it. I tend to think that it gravitates – despite its balance – a bit closer towards the Glitch genre, albeit a very melodious and accessible take on Glitch. The euphoria of the melodies is breathtaking, and once this is not the case, it is the entanglement of the various textures, their patterns and surfaces which make Your Small Story an effervescently whirling, life-like organism. Everything splutters, fizzles and shines, the various vibes and music boxes feel refreshing, the bucolic guitars and seemingly ancient harmonicas are markers of the country side, but conflate astonishingly well with the synth work. As every great Glitch- or Clicks & Cuts-related album shows, the wait for a supremely catchy synth element is at least as enjoyable as the appearance of this worshipped fragment itself. In this regard, Masahi Shiraishi's latest work is a feast. The synths are as important as the wealth of acoustic devices, a Japanese spirit wafts through the air. I could leave it at that and finish the review with this sentence and a recommendation to fans of the euphonious Glitch genre who do not mind Drone accents, were it not for the cryptic centerpiece Lost Angel which tears the carefully layered strata apart, blasts them into twilight and surprises with the gorgonian wealth which was heretofore neglected all the time. It is a mind-blowing, ever-changing brute full of synth maelstroms which may destroy the buildup with its impetus, but that is up for debate and can possibly be filed away under cheekiness… with an grave, seemingly important twist. Alternatively, one could say that with the help of Lost AngelYour Small Story has just turned into something bigger: a myth.



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Ambient Review 204: 3+ – Your Small Story (2013). Originally published on Apr. 10, 2013 at AmbientExotica.com.