ARU OTOKO NO DENSETSU: ALBUM REVIEW
Aru Otoko No Densetsu sounds like being trapped in an abstract work of art. It is the embodiment of what is at the heart of every Hilma af Kint painting; a weird, almost alien world made up of barely identifiable figures. Aru Otoko No Densetsu is hard to explain with words. The 2018 album by the artist Foodman, borrows elements of many different electronic music genres, including footwork, juke, and even 8-bit. The album keeps you on your toes and guessing about what turn it will take next, allowing the project to defy the typical constraints normally imposed by genre.
Takahide Higuchi, a.k.a. Foodman, has always made enigmatic music. He was an early part of the Japanese Footwork and Juke scene which originated in Chicago in the mid-2000s and made it over to Japan by the early 2010s. Along with his music, Foodman makes abstract drawings and figures to go with his album art. These fanciful drawings add another element to his work and turn Foodman’s experimental juke music into a world-building force. While his early music stayed pretty squarely within the juke genre, in the last few years his music has taken a turn toward the more experimental. On Aru Otoko No Densetsu he delivers an extremely experimental yet light-hearted creative opus.
The music on Aru Otoko No Densetsu is constructed almost entirely of percussive noises. Every digital instrument on the album plays some type of rhythm, and often these conjoining rhythms are played at completely different tempos. This gives many tracks on the album an almost jazz-like swing feeling, as tempos collide and break apart to reveal the odd undercurrent of melody underneath. The song “Mizu Youkan” is one of my favorite examples of this rhythmic experimentation. While a swinging beat constructed entirely of loops and synthetic bongos plays in the background, a vocal sample pops in and out of the mix as the tempo constantly changes. This song is just incredibly fun to listen to and fascinating in its construction. Every single listen reveals some new detail, rhythm or melody which adds another element of surprise each time.
This album constantly gives you hints that it could fit into traditional genre constraints, but Foodman always makes sure to evade these constraints throwing the listener off-balance. For example, the song "Sauna” has very traditional house piano chords as its base, but the beat never kicks in enough to make it sound like a house song. Every time the chords start to get in a real rhythm, they fade out and are replaced by glitchy drum samples. The song is in a constant state of limbo between the traditional and the whacky, but it strikes this balance absolutely perfectly.
Both “Clock” and “Mozuku” are departures from the sound in the rest of the album. “Clock” prominently features a vocalist who glides over the instrumental backing. These vocals feel completely foreign but are a nice respite from chaos present on pretty much every other track. “Mozuku” is the perfect closing track to the project. As the whispered vocal sample plays, the beat clangs around like pots and pans in the background. It embodies the odd, simple beauty of this project.
Most importantly, the album is a really fun listen. It is guaranteed to brighten up your day and present you with ideas that you never thought of before. The sheer creativity and experimentation of this project is something to marvel at. Each instrument and sound feels like it was crafted with such precision and care that even when a song is not gelling with you musically, there’s always the opportunity to just pay attention to the intricacies and the choices that Foodman made and marvel at his creativity.