Susumu Hirasawa – Sim City

4 out of 5

Label: Polydor

Produced by: Yuichi Kendo

As it was with his preceding solo albums – before his second ‘debut‘ – its taken Susumu time to warm to his sound.  Aurora set a standard for something more definably non-P-Model: deeper, more patient, more electronic and vocally harmonic; but it also felt indecisively indulgent, with Hirasawa loving his new approach so thoroughly that he’d let tracks spin past a point of interest.

Sim City – inspired by a culture shock upon a visit to the Thai city of Phuket – is apparently an attempt to capture a lack of location; a tribute to a city made up wholesale.  How this might be reflected in the lyrics I can’t exactly say, but between two bookending tracks, the sound of the album very much communicates this: worldly rhythms or instrumentation that give way to oddly tweaked vocals and heavy but beautiful whirls of sound.  Sim City broaches pop and more emotive work in its first half until the title track interrupts this with a haunting theme that calls forward to the busy mania of Paranoia Agent; thereafter, reverb and a sense of mystery starts to infiltrate.  In a less ‘narrative’ sense, this translates to the album coming across as very cohesive and song-based instead of the more open-ended feel of Aurora.  And perhaps the only real failing is that direct framing attempt via the opening and closing tracks, which feel rather out of place for whatever reason, requiring a stutter step before you can get immersed in track two, and a similar break at the album’s conclusion.  The forty-five or so minutes inbetween are Susumu at full, inspired strength, delivering nine layered and powerful songs.