I like music that transports. The ability to whisk the audience away from their daily reality and drop them in an otherwise inaccessible environment is surely a feat that all artists strive for. A concept album can be a very effective means to this end, with the visceral, hard Compton depicted in good kid, m.A.A.d. city being perhaps the most recent testament to this (the powerful narrative underlying the music serving to produce a more engaging experience). The world offered up to us on The Pacific Visions of Martin Glass is a far cry from that found in Kendrick’s work, but it is one that I’ve found myself returning to again and again this year.
The album is presented as the recordings of an American businessman marooned in a Far East beachfront hotel while he works on a never-ending deal. The blissed-out, cocktail-drenched haze that Glass inhabits is then lucidly portrayed to the listener across eleven dreamy short-form pieces, encompassing downbeat exotica, drifting lounge and neo-classical ambient. The over-arching musical influence is of 70s and 80s Japanese minimalist and Nippon pop artists, with flurried marimba patterns opening each side of the record and several moments recalling Yellow Magic Orchestra experiments or Tatsuro Yamashita’s brand of beach disco.
This part of musical history has hardly been short of interest recently, and it would be wrong to argue that Glass takes the styles of Midori Takada or Yasuaki Shimizu in any particularly new direction. For me, the charm of this album lies in how tongue-in-cheek it all is. A personal highlight comes in Glasshouse at Izu, for example, when the slow, almost yacht-rock beat is joined by a slurred, karaoke-style Japanese vocal for a few bars, before fading among aquatic synths almost as soon as it starts - you can’t help but smile.
This is not an album that takes itself seriously. It is not a grandiose mediation on the music of the Japanese greats. Instead it takes cues from all of them to give a perfectly-formed glimpse into an idyllic, aimless lifestyle. Cheesy, sleazy and breezy, The Pacific Visions of Martin Glass is an addictively blissful release.
Words: Oscar Allan