It is not incorrect to file this collection of early works by Japan’s Masahiro Sugaya under ambient. Lovers of the genre will appreciate Horizon Vol. 1 for both its compositions and instrumentation. There is a gentleness to the music that will appeal to ambient music fans, particularly those with an interest in the genre’s history.
But this is more than just another collection of early ambient works. Sugaya produced these recordings in the 1980s for an experimental Tokyo theatre group called Pappa Tarahumura. Besides delivering what must have been out-of-this-world ear candy to listeners back in the day, the album features extraordinary piano, guitar and percussion performances. This is what makes Horizon Vol. 1 special.
Sugaya came up as part of a clique of musicians that included Midori Takada, Hiroshi Yoshimura, Satsuki Shibano and Yoshio Ojima. Big names for those in the know. But for most of us outside of Japan, Sugaya and his contemporaries were woefully underexposed.
Which makes this repackaging from Light In The Attic Records that much more important. The sub-label is part of Empire Of Signs, led by Visible Cloaks’ Spencer Doran and Maxwell August Croy.
The collection delivers a number of inspired moments. “Future Green” opens with gentle percussion over a variety of synth tracks. “Afternoon of the Appearing Fish” features a cool, graceful piano performance that wouldn’t be out of place on a jazz record.
“Grain of Sand by the Sea” concentrates on the far right-hand end of the keyboard, producing a two-minute rain shower of sound. “Straight Line Floating in the Sky” is perhaps the album’s closest thing to a fully ambient work. Later on, “Wind Conversation” introduces a delicate acoustic guitar to the mix.
None of it sounds even a little bit dated.