Koji Asano

Preparing for April

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Preparing for April is Koji Asano's fourth solo piano album and his 13th overall. As usual, there is a twist. This time, his improvisations have been recorded with a micro-cassette tape recorder (the kind reporters used before minidiscs became affordable). Further "dropped frequency" treatment produced a monaural, dampened, lo-fi recording. You can hear the mechanism of the tape recorder running whenever the music drops to a certain level, along with various overload buzzes when it plays too loud. Asano's decision to proceed this way has to be rooted in something deeper. Perhaps the answer can be found in his playing. The six pieces vary in style from romantic, Beethoven-esque sonatas (untitled pieces number one and two) to hard-edged abstract music, but they all share some basic qualities. To be blunt, they are all clumsy and inelegant. Tracks one and two have a good flow, but they could be student pieces. The 28-minute track six simply sounds like a student struggling to learn a piece or, at times, a child hammering away at the keys. And that's where the recording quality comes in. Preparing for April is the recording your parents made of you when you were a kid. It sounds like it, it feels like it, it is just as unnerving and potentially embarrassing whenever your significant other has dinner with your folks. The idea is clever, the photography on the cover ranks among Asano's most beautiful, but compared to his other piano works and even for conceptual art, this album feels weak.