Today Hiroki Tanaka shares the third and final single / video, “Bare Hallways,” from his debut solo album, Kaigo Kioku Kuoku which is due Oct. 16 via the COAX label.
About “Bare Hallways”:
“When I first started thinking about this project, my sister had already recorded a lot of my grandmother talking and singing folk songs or hymns. My sister sent me the recording of my grandmother singing “Jesus Tender Shepherd Hear Me”, and I suppose I felt inspired to create something about this experience based on that recording.
Bare Hallways was written as I was reflecting on my experience as a caregiver for my grandmother, and the feeling that everything was slowly falling apart. My grandmother’s Alzheimer’s was inevitably growing worse, the house was falling into disrepair, and the family had started the very necessary process of clearing out what items they could get away with, without sending my grandmother into a panic.
There’s this dichotomy between the menial and tender tasks that were required of me as a caregiver in the verses, and then the refrain of the chorus “In The End”. I think I couldn’t look away at the truth of it, that death is isolating and painful. That there was an inevitable ugliness to it that you needed to accept.
A lot of this album is about confronting the difficult aspects of dying, and attempting to find grace and solace in the pain that death causes.”
About the album:
Kaigo Kioku Kyoku (which translates into “Caregiving Memory Songs”) was built from his experience as a caregiver for his grandmother with Alzheimer’s, and uncle with terminal cancer. In a further nod to the circular nature of life, the house that Hiroki cared for his relatives in was also the house he was born in.
Combining the sounds of objects collected from the house, voice recordings of his relatives, and structuring the songs off of hymns and Japanese folk songs, Hiroki has created a “sonic archive” to preserve his unique family history, and document the stark reality of being a caregiver.
Hiroki has been playing in bands since his teenage years, and spent the last half-decade as the lead guitarist of YAMANTAKA // SONIC TITAN. Compelled to create Kaigo Kioku Kyoku after this challenging period, he is striking out on his own for the first time and bringing all his experience with him. The result is a cathartic album that is as lush and virtuosic, as it is raw and intimate.
“I wanted to create a sonic archive of the space that had provided me life, and served as space for transformation and shedding. I wanted to provide a voice that I hadn’t heard before, one that illustrated the experience of being a caregiver in stark detail. One that celebrated my family’s multicultural heritage and created a snapshot of a family’s history.”
The first single, “Blue Eyed Doll” for example, starts off with a recording of a Japanese choir woman from the eldercare facility Hiroki’s grandmother was staying in. They are singing the Japanese folk songs “Aoi Me No Ningyo” (trans. “Blue Eyed Doll”) which leads into the album track of the same name. Each percussive soundt in Hiroki’s “Blue Eyed Doll” was collected from the house, and includes everything from the sound of a cupboard closing to the clinking of two glasses together. This “found-sound” approach to percussion is what gives every sound and melody in Kaigo Kioku Kyoku significance.
Recorded first in the house, then finished at The Immergluck Studio, with the assistance of producer Matthew Bailey, the album features a cast of notable guest musicians, including Tara Kannangara (french horn), Brendan Swanson (piano), Zaynab Wilson (Drums/Percussion) and Michael Eckert (pedal steel). To further add to the familial element, Jacqueline Goring, a classical trained harpist and also Hiroki’s aunt, performs a solo harp arrangement of the hymn “Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence” and contributes to the album’s last track, “Utopia.“
Press photo by Maya Bankovic