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Mitchell Akiyama - If Night is a Weed and Day Grows Less

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Artist: Mitchell Akiyama

Album: If Night is a Weed and Day Grows Less

Label: Sub Rosa

Review date: Jul. 20, 2004

Montreal’s Mitchell Akiyama was classically trained on both the piano and guitar, a course of musical development that requires the musician to be able to both appreciate and create moments of subtle beauty. This quest for the expression of something beyond the notes on the clef is one of the most basic, yet equally intangible facets of the creative process and the act of performance. Akiyama, now working more heavily in electronics, is no stranger to the power of the glitch, and on If Night is a Weed and Day Grows Less he continues to obscure the qualities of acoustic sound sources behind an intricate net of digital processing and washes of static.

Akiyama applies these new tools to his own piano playing. His performance is rather sparse and economical, sometimes rather abstract, though often with strains of melody, sometimes even an easily memorable tune. Had he simply played the piano, and left the album at that, If Night is a Weed and Day Grows Less would’ve been a worthy release. However, with his craftsman-like use of electronics to speckle the music with irregularities, Akiyama deepens the scope and effect of the sounds. It’s a technique that reaps significant reward.

It’s not hard to pinpoint Akiyama’s original piano playing throughout If Night is a Weed and Day Grows Less, and even when the swirling grit of the electronics swallows up the piano completely, a sense of something organic keeps the music from becoming too cold or distanced. Tracks like “Enfin, Rien est Gagné” take the obscured and imperfect piano into celestial realms, while the upbeat “With Hope That” contains more undistorted melodic interplay between Akiyama and cellist Beck Foon.

Most of the disc doesn’t enter such unambiguously straightforward (however minimalist) territory, and, immediately, on “A Lesser Path Growing,” we again find Akiyama’s piano, though relatively untouched by digital effects, abstract and without a heavy rhythmic base. It’s hard to say which aspect of Akiyama’s music is better, for just as “With Hope That” might be the album’s most listenable and endearing track, the heavily scoured sounds of “…Try to Conceal” are equally satisfying in a less accessible way. Akiyama’s mix of acoustic and electric or old and new isn’t something completely new, but his efforts are still worthy of attention. If Night is a Weed and Day Grows Less showcases this synthesis beautifully.

By Adam Strohm

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