Repressed: Midori Takada’s Through The Looking Glass

Midori Takada’s Through The Looking Glass has recently been repressed for the younger listeners and wider audiences of today, as ambient music has been moving from the fringes of society into the mainstream since its inception. The previous “Holy Grail” of Japanese ambient music is still as fresh today as it was in 1983, with fans of ambient and Japanese, as well as fresh faces, all rushing to their closest retailer to have a listen to this gem.

Midori made her debut with the Berlin RIAS Symphonie Orchestra at the Berlin Philharmonic, however shifted her vision towards minimalism, Asian and African music. She believed that classical music neglected the individual’s exploration of inner self and instead instigated outward-bound aggression. Continuing her minimalistic approach to her solo career, Midori was influenced by the percussive masterminds of the Mkwaju Ensemble, cultivating a deeper understanding of rhythm and minimalism. Her stringent beliefs on composing are heralded throughout Through The Looking Glass, as she explores herself through her minimalist sounds.

Composed and produced completely by Midori, she played every instrument throughout the album, including marimbas, recorder, vibraphone, harmonium, shakers and other whackable instruments. These all build together in a Japanese ambient masterpiece, transporting your mind to places far beyond where the eyes can see; through the looking glass. Starting smoothly with “Mr Henri Rousseau’s Dream” offers a calming and audibly soothing experience, this soundscape translates to a time of peace and relaxation. Produced using calculated distances with the microphone to all instruments, to create warm, ‘3D’, dreamy tones. Increasing the intensity percussively, with a heavy use of layered marimbas, Midori presents “Crossing”. An intermittent, low-end dense baseline flows through the marimbas that accentuates the powerful percussion to achieve a slow-burning masterpiece, to the effect of an Asian-influenced Hans Zimmer composition. The shortest of four, “Trompe-l’oeil” offers a quirky, off-kilter piece with a somewhat festive nature; performed with only a Coke bottle, bells and a reed organ with a foot pedal. Closing the album “Catastrophe” insights into a brooding pandemonium, using a slow-building tempo as Midori’s instruments complement and skirmish concurrently. A midway breakdown only offers the chance to build again in an audible expression of pure upheaval, the album-closing leaves the listener physically tingling and emotionally bewildered. “Catastrophe” offers a prime illustration of Midori’s view on classical music with it’s chaotic and aggressive 15 minutes.

The unique ‘drone’ we hear throughout Through The Looking Glass comes from her instruments layered countless times during the overdubbing process, in order to minimise the errors made with no technical support. This creativity gives the listener not only an appreciation of the artist, but the sound we hear as the humming frequencies wash over.

This album is a masterpiece of the genre, giving the listener insight into the composer’s life in a beautifully personal manner.

Midori Takada
Through The Looking Glass
First pressed by RCA Japan 1983
Repressed March 2017 on Palto Flats as a singular LP and We Release Whatever The Fuck We Want Switzerland as a limited double LP