Sound-Holic – Toho Pianism I – 4/5
With a name like ‘sound-holic’ you could almost be forgiven for thinking it some sort of Electronic Dance act, and given the fact that it is once more a doujin group that has perked my ears, re-arranging pre-existing ‘touhou’ (video game) tracks this false impression would be easy to reach, but actually it couldn’t be further from the truth. Re-worked in such a manner so as to feel like a new piece unto themselves, the piano hinted in the title taking the forefront with an array of carefully calculated melodies; it is between the frequent incursions of the delicate violins, pounding bongos and upbeat sax work that you realise these instrumental compositions sit quite firmly between jazz and classical; not without the emotion and passion of the latter whilst unafraid to swing like the former.
It is of course the piano that maintains the constant presence, creating the framework to work within in a raw but carefully calculate manner. Each note feels so organic and without correction that the slightest detail and mistake is made known, and far from detracting from the piece it lends it a sense of being alive, capable of rapidly changing mood or style in an instant. There is no neo-classical virtuosity here either; far from some form of spellbinding piano wizardry, what’s on show is his compositional ability over technical proficiency. Combined with the array of guest musicians – almost presenting a new instrument on each track – each one adding a new subtle musical flavour to the piece, each track succeeds in feeling fresh compared to what came before it even after multiple listens.
There are unquestionably better pianists in the world, but this remains an unexpected surprise; the emotion doesn’t carry the same power as from more skilled fingers but it maintains a constant presence, and the rhythms themselves still retain that ‘touhou’ sense of energy, enthusiasm and optimism (which is perhaps the only real indication of where the original melody came from). When I first discovered this I got it entirely on whim, looking for little more than some interesting music from an underrated instrument, but this release has proven to be better than I ever would have anticipated.