It’s 2013 in Tokyo. The second worst heatwave in Japan’s history blazes across the land of the rising sun, the Democratic Party of Japan have lost control of the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly to the Liberals and somewhere on the subway Nic (Pleasure Cruiser) and George (Smoke Thief) are meeting for the first time.
Nic (Chinese-Irish producer with releases on High Hoops, Step Recordings and a participant of Red Bull Music Academy) and George (Tokyo based soundtrack producer and saxophonist with an MA in musical performance) brushed shoulders on the Tozai Subway line, got to talking and have been best friends ever since. The pair created the production duo of Personas – an ambient, soundtrack-leaning moniker – and have been quietly working on their debut album – Zen Koans for Subway Commuters, which features a special collaboration with Japanese electronic composer Soichi Terada under his Omodaka alias – an album that very much does what it says on the tin.
Zen Koans for Subway Commuters plays out like the listener’s own personal cinematic experience. It’s easy to draw comparisons with the lonerism scores of Tokyo based films such as the Scarlott Johanson and Bill Murray starring Lost in Translation (2003). There’s an isolated aesthetic to the album. It captures the melancholy and freedom that comes with a commute; catching the meditative relief of travel and channelling it into an inner-main character episode as we hurtle to and fro.
Floating from the beatless, contemplative pads of ‘Elevation’ to the live-sax of ‘Northside Hibiya Sen’ and the heavily field-recorded experimentation of Ayako and Omodaka’s collaborative ‘Shuuten’, Zen Koans for Subway Commuters maintains it’s interest throughout thanks to it’s variety of ambient sonics and real-life manifestation. Footsteps from heeled shoes clip-clop across sterile white tiles, trains rattle as they pull into the station, voices call out in greeting to friends and loved ones. It’s a trip in every sense of the word, a form of meditative therapy designed to think about nothing or think about everything.
Featuring live recordings from the pair’s ventures throughout Tokyo, Personas have crafted a mesmiring debut album that pulls on the heartstrings whilst maintaining a complete sense of freedom. Getting on the train to go anywhere is exciting, not just because of the destination, but because of the liberation that comes with sitting down, reading a book or listening to music and knowing you can’t do anything else apart from that for a few hours. Intimate, subtle and cinematic, it’s the perfect soundtrack to get lost to.
- Little One On The Seat
- Northside Hibiya Sen
- People At Junctions
- Shuuten ft Ayako & Omodaka
- Waiting On The Platform ft Keita Sano