Shuta Hasunuma released his self-titled debut last year, and while it had some decent moments, it largely failed to separate itself from the pack largely because it was so unfocused. A loose collage of field recordings, half-remembered organic instrumentation, and electronic smatterings, it gelled in places but then completely lost it in others, ultimately ending up as sort of a middle-ground effort.
OK Bamboo corrects a good portion of the problems from the first release, and as a result is a much stronger release. There are still a couple head-scratching moments, but overall it's a much more melodic, thought-out release that evolves nicely and shows the young artist really growing as a musician. Album-titled "OK Bamboo" opens the release with a blast of static, but instead of lingering for too long it locks into a pretty little groove with glitchy beats dancing across warm piano melodies. "Return Of The Bamboo" falls off the rails a little bit comparatively, but "Already There" locks right back into things with a gorgeous little folktronica track that mixes chopped-up acoustic guitar and piano with more slightly glitchy beats and bursts of static in a way that manages to keep the fairly quiet song dynamic.
The two-part centerpieces of the release are the seven minute "Discover Tokyo" and the nearly nine minute "Niagara Shower." Whereas his former release would often drift off into random field recordings and aimless instrumental interludes, the difference is clear here as even these longer pieces are much more developed. The former veers back and forth between mellow piano/acoustic guitar passages and sort of hop-along beat-driven passages, while the latter mingles pretty showers of filtered electronics with sparse piano melodies.
If the album has a weak spot, it's that the latter quarter or so of the release doesn't stand quite as strong. Both "Paradigm Shift" and "The Highest Point Of" rely more on electronic outbursts than melodic elements, and it seems like a bit of a derail. That said, though, there's plenty of nice tracks on the release, and pieces like the warm "Sunny Day In Saginomiya" are completely fitting their namesake, as Eastern-influenced melodies and light production play out like the slightly glitchy cousin to music you might here in a travelogue about the country. Intricate at times, and intimate at others, OK Bamboo is a great second album from this young musician.