88 Keys, Akira Kosemura’s latest solo project came out on the 29th March 2021, on Piano Day — an annual musical holiday which intends to celebrate the piano in all its forms. The release coincides with the return of spring and the return of Kosemura’s own solo music — after In The Dark Woods in 2017. It is as much of a surprise to the listener than to the artist himself; 88 Keys was born out of the incidental context of the pandemic lockdown, when Kosemura was obliged to pause his multiple scoring projects, and which gave him the opportunity to enjoy musical moments of their own. Fortunately the result is palpable in 88 Keys, a compilation of memories and moments.
While there is an observation which can be made about 88 Keys, an analysis of the pieces and the composer, it feels necessary to keep in mind the intentions of the artist; for Kosemura the album is an accident and the result of circumstances. The pieces that have emerged from it are spontaneous and natural rather than planned and elaborated. To me in 88 Keys, Kosemura is more of a songwriter than a composer; a poet who makes his piano sing, lament, reflect or contemplate. The spontaneity of the pieces allow for the musical personality of Kosemura to shine — his experience, his influences; the baroque and classical inflections of “Karen”, the emotion and the craft are equally present. At times one can hear the music naturally flowing through the fingers — catching it in the air as Kosemura says —, in “Asymptote” or “Wavering Heart”. Some pieces are powerful enough to make anyone stop and listen, such as with “By Night” or “Spiral”.Thanks to the directness and simplicity of the music, one can decide to ignore the titles and associate his own illustrations to the music; “Yure”, or “Hidden Waltz” which brought me back to my native Paris and its river banks. Kosemura is aware of the sound between the notes, and pieces like “Reverie” allow the listener to fill his own sounds between the melodic fragments, and in the case of “Another Place” perhaps a cello counterpoint. Much of the music is indeed open to interpretation, but there are recurring themes such as time and impermanence “Nothing Stays the Same”, “The Eight Day”, and when one reads through the lines, there is an emerging sense of positivity, through the common theme of light — “Lueur”, “Aura” and “Komorebi”. In Japanese, komorebi is the sunlight as it filters through the trees… Whether Kosemura celebrates the instrument by making it the main object of his creativity or whether he only uses it as a medium to express himself is in the end superfluous.
Kosemura says of 88 Keys that it was not an album that was planned in any sort of way; rather time and context created it. It is a memory album of the past year, and shines with its spontaneity and simplicity. Recorded in his own home studio, it is soft and humble music, where each piece seems to hold a particularity, individuality and sensitivity of its own; just like memories. It is fair to say that the world is currently both gifted and saturated with music for solo piano. But every once in a while a work like 88 Keys emerges; a musical statement which promises nothing and gives everything; simplicity, honesty and a genuine connection with the listener.