On A Quiet Night






Quoi’s On A Quiet Night is either a big EP or little album, depending on one’s preferred viewpoint, but its six piano-based visions are never picayune. Released on the Petroglyph label in April 2014 and available to fetch and stream at Bandcamp, the Japanese artist neglects the superimposition of stacked synths off his Birthplace EP (2013) in favor of a slightly more earthen approach. The piano is now the driving factor and underlines a stroll through an illuminated city, but due to a careful amount of synth washes, dropped beats and percussion, On A Quiet Night never feels like an electro-acoustic Modern Classical album; instead of sophisticated convolutions and labyrinthine melodies, Quoi goes for a balanced high-contrast plasticity with enough room for gracefully colorful bursts and small field recordings of the rhythmical kind. The night is worshipped alright, but it is a relieving, revigorating force that enters through every intrinsic pore of the release. It turns out that six short tracks are exactly enough for Quoi to take a stand and deliver an intriguing work of glimmering city lights, bubbling rivers and rectangular shapes of high-rise buildings. Here is a more meticulous look.


The opener Reminds Me Of The Past juxtaposes two harmonious pericarps that are willfully turned into quirkily incongruent counterpoints to each other, and it is right here at the beginning of this EP or little album that Quoi purposefully belittles his piano-fueled alloy. What happens? It turns out that a glacial but insouciant piano melody is embedded in a field recording. So far, so common. The field recording, however, is awfully short, resembling the 16-bit era with its clumsily looped appearance, comprising of a crowded scenery that runs for less than two seconds before it is repeated ad infinitum. The reason for this strange aesthetic is due to the field recording serving as a rhythmic device. Hued in nostalgia and ameliorated by an soft downbeat complete with reverberated snares and synthetic string sinews, the pattern creates a melancholic void, a vortex of kaleidoscopic cataracts and reminiscent scents. The Still Of The Night sees the same ingredients in-between dripstone droplets, breakbeat reticulations and an even greater focus on echoey blotches whose reflected frequencies not only augment the recondite nothingness, but add a cavernous notion to the fibrillar physiognomy of the angelic synth choir that floats around the pristine piano chords. Falling Into The Past then is the Ambient sparkler of the first triad, hollow and veneered, its beatless complexion agglutinated by artificial handclaps, blurred walkie talkie-like static noise appendixes and a cannelure that decollates each tone on the piano. The nocturnal aura remains an important part of the whole process, and yet is this third track the most uplifting and gentle one.


The second half of the little album sees Quoi relying on the same distinct granuloma of a dichotomously hazy incision. All Night Long Till Dawn functions as the epiphany since it unfurls a stupefyingly Japanese aura that is emitted by the piano’s timbre and further interpolated by a few clicking claves in the background. Shuttling between a dry piano-based remoteness and synth-underlined shaker/hi-hat dioramas, the track gyres between vestibules to fairy tales and senescent shrine architecture, all of this envisioned via the power of sound waves and accessible melodies. Walking Alone The Shore may be an unintended mixup between the similar words along/alone, but opens a rift to a wealth of meanings in no ways short of a well-articulated wordplay. The piano and the half-synthetic, post-processed sustain resemble isolating icicles and frosty aureoles, somehow evoking the chromaticity of winter; the adjacent field recording of bubbly water however serves as the syringa superfluid in the wake of dawn and reminds the traveling subject of life's flow. The finale is called On A Quiet Rainy Night and continues the conglomeration of moisture with sophisticated piano melodies. Here, the signature instrument exudes aureate rays, sounding much more gentle and lenient than ice-cold. The mellowly pulsating aorta is unexpectedly warm and turns out to be the earthbound rhizome to the seraphic ethereality that unfolds via languorous luminaries and glowing domes. The plinking raindrops suggest a fissured and craggy landscape, more akin to an arcane antrum than a commonplace concrete jungle. Soothing warmth and clandestine cold are united, transforming the compunction into a chime.


The darkness is omnipresent and traverses every frequency and heterodyned texture, but On A Quiet Night is a soothing release which allows the strolling subject to control each situation. Meandering between rural fields, murky alleys and elysian peripheries, Quoi’s little album maintains the exact balance between electro and acoustic contemplations. Take, for instance, the gorgeous All Night Long Till Dawn and its successful Far Eastern aurora: the piano is in the spotlight all along, the spawned buildups and stacked harmonies however are wonderfully otherworldly despite the perfectly earthen origin of the piano. This aeriform approach is lifted ever higher with the help of cautiously injected synth streamlets. Indeed, it is these artificial flumes – not the piano –  which harken back to Quoi’s works and previous proclivities. Even with the concentration on the piano, the recurrent melodies are highly captivating, serving as the illuminant in a pitch-black night. The playful way of adding field recordings to the scenery as well as the occasional integration of suave beats make On A Quiet Night all the more contrastive. The field recordings are used in a clever way, letting the listener know about their shortness and repetitive nature. This rhythmic perusal is one of Quoi’s biggest achievements that add to the endemics of the little album. Those listeners who shy away from Modern Classical additions and would like to see infinitesimal amounts of magic and glowing translucency amid the piano shall investigate and might be surprised of how cleverly thought out this seemingly little release actually is.


Further listening and reading: 

  • You can download (name your price) and stream Quoi’s work at Bandcamp
  • Quoi’s Twitter handle is @quoi_iouq


Ambient Review 438: Quoi – On A Quiet Night (2014). Originally published on Jun. 17, 2014 at AmbientExotica.com.