西原健一郎 Nishihara Kenichiro/ESNO

Next to the likes of DJ Okawari and the late Nujabes, 西原健一郎 Nishihara Kenichiro is perhaps respected as one of many exciting track makers to come out of today’s musical generation in Japan.

Humming Jazz was the album that introduced Nishihara’s musical personality to listeners. Delicately seductive and intricately crafted, the Tokyo producer’s debut album is the perfect body of easy listening music to play in the background. Nishihara’s love for the piano, and his passion for an array of styles play an influential role throughout the album, from the bossa-infused ‘Nebulosa’ with a touch of pentatonic decorations, the simple and elegant nu-jazz/hip-hop vibes of ‘Consider My Love ft. Pisno’ and the tranquil Mediterranean guitar flavours of ‘Step Firmly Slowly’.

The ability to maintain a sense of familiarity while keeping an eye for contemporary influences and appeal is what makes Nishihara a skilful track maker. Perhaps echoing glimpses of Flying Lotus, ‘Serendipity ft. Tamala & Takurah’ is a great example in where warm brass melodies infuse a classic soul/smooth jazz tang amongst the programmed hip-hop/nu-jazz propulsion.

Nishihara also developed another creative pursuit under the artist name ESNO. ‘Seed’, from his debut album Visionary (as ESNO) transcends the classic jazz/hip-hop beat maker formula by crossing over electronica realms. The track opens with serene piano chords, until the main warped glitch sample riff intervene in the audible space, acting as an interesting rhythmic and textural layer, one with a slight percussive quality to it. The track progresses with other instruments and textures weaving in one by one, including the fluttering flute solos, a droid-filtered piano hook, a steady hip-hop pulse and various small sonic snippets.

On reflection, Nishihara has developed a mature musical character, backed by a wealth of captivating records and support from fellow artists. His musical panache will surely serve him well for the future.

Other Listening:

  • Visionary
  • Step Out
  • Prism Tale
  • My Leaving ft. Mabanua

© Isaku Takahashi

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