Susumu Hirasawa – Aurora

3 out of 5
Produced by: Susumu Hirasawa, Yuichi Kendo
Label: Polydor
After reconvening with P-Model, Susumu would return to solo work with what he considered a “second debut” – Aurora.  And while you can certainly sense the same mind behind the electro-quirks of his notable group and previous releases, that Aurora is quite different – more patient, more symphonic, and much more notably a one-man affair, with songs often stretching beyond the six minute mark – calling it another debut doesn’t necessarily feel like hyperbole.
The years have certainly gifted Hirasawa’s songwriting a kind mix of restraint and confidence: while a thirteen minute penultimate track may suggest indulgence, nothing on Aurora comes across as just existing for its own sake: while my rating reflects that I don’t necessarily get the same level of satisfaction from this disc as I have from others, there’s an appreciable “experience” at work from start to finish, following up on a similar effect created by the preceding solo release, Virtual Rabbit.  But whereas that album still had P-Model fingerprints, Aurora is off in its own dense universe.
The mood, for me, only really warms up after Susumu does: opener Stone Garden is a bit too minimal and repetitive to grab my ear, and Love Song takes a few bars before it’s able to build to something as embracing as befits its title; its latter section is one of the most gorgeous things Hirasawa has crafter up to this point.  And the quality stays at that high bar for Aurora, Song of the Force, and the suddenly pummeling Take The Wheel.  But things dip down thereafter, falling back on cyclical song structures and seemingly slimmer compositions.  (Seemingly because they are quite layered, but they’re put together in a way that doesn’t highlight that or make the most use of it.)  That thirteen minute song – Island Door – has its place on a disc dedicated to longer form drone, but as a next-to-lack track on a disc that shifts up and down in tone and mood, it leaves my attentions dwindling, especially as backed up by the slight closer of Ringing Bell.
Those run of tracks in the album’s first half rank with Susumu’s best, though, and the disc as a whole is relevant for establishing a shift in the artist’s ever-evolving abilities.