3. Subterranean Life
4. Ceremony of the Dead 07:07
5. Floating Against Time
6. Abyss II
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‘Where is Agartha? What is the specific region in which it lies? Along what road, through what civilizations, must one walk in order to reach it?.’ Saint-Yves d’Alveydre in 1886
Agartha, the debut full-length album by Japanese producer Wata Igarashi, is a mysterious, divine thing. Named for the mythical secret kingdom, understood as a complex maze of underground tunnels, perhaps designed by Martians who colonised the Earth tens of thousands of years ago, it’s a similarly mystical, perhaps even cosmic trip – but this time, exploring an inner, deeply personal cosmos. Beautifully detailed and bustling with rich incident, it takes Igarashi’s music to new places, which still retaining his unique sonic imprimatur; in this respect, it’s perfectly at home with Kompakt, a label that’s always encouraged artists to make the visionary music they need to create, to take risks and make sideways steps into uncharted territory.
An eloquent producer and DJ, Igarashi has been releasing techno for eleven years now, appearing on such imprints as The Bunker NY, Delsin, Midgar, and Time To Express; he has also self-released his productions via his WIP net label. Throughout, Igarashi has consistently explored his unique approach to techno and electronic music, one that’s eloquent and poised, even when it shifts into more psychedelic terrain; he’s a master at balancing the sensual and the functional, and he has an unerring ear for the right texture, the right tone, at the right time. He brings all of this into Agartha, his most thorough-going expression of self to date.
For Agartha, Igarashi had a strong concept he wanted to explore. Visualising specific scenes from an imaginary film based on the titular secret kingdom, he created soundtracks for those scenes, spending time during the pandemic in his studio, working away carefully at the ten tracks here. Given his background in creating music for television and advertisements, Igarashi is well-placed to explore the marriage of the sonic and the visual in such intimate ways, but freed from commercial concerns, he let his imagination run riot. He also drew on a rich palette of musical influences – techno is in there, of course, but you can also hear the smoky, improvised jazz of the likes of Miles Davis (to whom the album’s title is an indirect nod), and the minimalism and systems music of Steve Reich.
The latter is particularly pronounced on the gorgeous, beatless drift of “Floating Against Time”, where an arpeggiated sequence lingers, lovingly, around your ears for nine blissful minutes, coasting across swooning drones and waves of ambient noise. “Ceremony Of The Dead”, originally composed as part of a Sony 360 Reality Audio spatial sound concert, is a deep pass into systems composition, with various patterns overlaid and interlocking, before a wordless vocal rises from the depths, a gorgeous counterpoint to the swarming textures that gather across the track. On the other hand, tracks like “Burning” and “Subterranean Life” nudge toward Fourth World territory, painting deluxe dreamscapes of uncertain provenance; the title cut is an abstract drift-world, Igarashi painting an alien tableau dotted by shape-shifting creatures.
Agartha’s conceptual framework means that everything on the album sits perfectly together; listening to it in one sitting is a dizzying, lush experience. Its imaginings of inner landscapes recall, in some respects, the nautical, aqueous mythologies of the Drexciyan universe, though from different perspectives. But the result is Igarashi’s own creation, a deluxe, enchanting trip through the visionary Agartha of this unique producer’s cinematic mind’s-eye.