Fuubutsushi by Matthew Sage, Lake Mary, Patrick Shiroishi, and Chris Jusell
Fuubutsushi — defined as “the things (feelings, scents, images) that evoke the memories or anticipation of a particular season.
Aside from being an album with a very defined and well-articulated sound, it also possesses its own interesting backstory. The four artists who came together to create this album, named in the title, are a bit of a time capsule of a soon-to-be-bygone era. Created virtually, though with real (physical) instruments, the Covid-19 pandemic forced each of these musicians to stay in their homes and record their pieces themselves. Though the pandemic seems to (hopefully) loosen its grasp on humans as each week passes, the change in lifestyle, for many, is jarring.
Fuubutsushi was a bit of a step outside my comfort zone. When I listen to music, I focus almost entirely on the feeling that comes with it; in other posts you may see, quite plainly, that I tend to listen to music that could be called “cinematic”. I haven’t listened to my fair share of “music for empty rooms”, which is how I would define this offshoot of ambient jazz. However, Fuubutsushi is hard to pin down into this genre.
At times, especially on “Sugar Maple Turn”, we get a lot of straightforward jazz progressions and wonderful use of empty space. Masterful uses of drums and the powerful melodies of the saxophone definitely raise this song on my list, in terms of favorites. Drums, especially, drive this album, as they should on any jazz project. The shaking cymbals are ever-present throughout the runtime, giving us a wonderful idea of the way that the artists intended to embody the title they chose.
However, one creative diversion that the quartet take on this album is to dip slightly into a more math-y style. It’s appropriate that both the title and some stylistic elements are taken from Japanese culture; the origin of math rock and the interesting riffs it has created over the years. Especially on “Watch the Time”, a bit of a tongue-in-cheek title, where the well-paced and galloping drums punctuate wonderful saxophone and piano lines.
I first discovered this song as I was standing on a train-bridge, watching the water flow by underneath. Finding a song in the exact right moment isn’t a super rare occurrence for me, as I do find a lot of music. But “Watch the Time” was exactly what I should have been hearing in that moment. Due to the road noise, I wasn’t planning on taking my Airpods out, but if the water could have been singing in that moment, it would have sung this song.
Another asynchronous style choice on this album, not usually found on a jazz album, is the use of both voice and spoken word. On the first and most popular track, “Bolted Orange”, we hear Sage add in his own vocals, more so as an instrument that attempting to give lyrics. This leading track is arguably the most airy on the album, dominated more by melody than a drumbeat. It’s also the song that sounds most like it should exist in a museum, in an empty room by itself.
On “Freedom Crap”, admittedly not one of my first choices on this album, Matthew Sage brings in field recordings of a homeless man speaking about the destruction of the place where he was sleeping. The use of field recording usually plays out well on this album, though; especially on “Cicada Season”, where the humming cicadas punctuate a piano-led melody.
A short album, and one without vocals, warrants much more of a focus on its artistry than its meaning. This album was exactly that for me. Certainly one that I’ll listen to time and time again, but not because it will be a favorite of all time. Simply because it was the right album for the right moment, and hopefully I will look back on my experience with this project.
I have a theory in life. It goes “there will always be a more perfect song for the moment you exist in”. This is what drives me forward in searching for more and more music, and developing what some would call a soundtrack to my life. Occurrences which I find that song, that I believe perfect for the moment, are certainly worth keeping.