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photo credit: Maya Bankovic



The dark ending does not cancel out
The brightness of the middle.
Your day of greatest joy cannot be
Dimmed by any shame. ~ from Tony Hoagland’s “I Have Good News”

So ends the spoken word section of Hiroki Tanaka’s sound piece, “Snowdrops”. Hiroki Tanaka’s debut solo album Kaigo Kioku Kyoku speaks to the celebration of brightness, while reckoning with the darkness. 

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.

For example, on songs such as “Snowdrops,” he begins with a rendition of the Japanese folk-song, “Sakura,” which transforms into a mantric rhythm, and overlays the music with a recording from his grandmother. The beginning of “Eternal Host” takes it’s chords from the hymn, “Home! Sweet Home!” and turns it into a sludgy wall of guitars, before shifting into a head nodding beat. Each song is laced with lyrical details that hold no punches, putting words to the experience of caregivers that is so rarely heard, and so often unacknowledged.

While demanding more than a casual listen, Hiroki’s work is for the burnt out caregiver, who is hoping for someone to reach out to them and say, “I know it’s hard”. It is for those listeners who cannot shy away from mortality, for those who want to embrace life in both it’s pain and joy. While the story is ultimately about Hiroki and his family, Kaigo Kioku Kyoku strikes a vein of universality, that speaks to anyone who has lost a loved one in their life.

Current Release

Hiroki Tanaka
Kaigo Kioku Kyoku
Street Date: October 16, 2020

Track List:

1. Bare Hallways
2. Eternal Host
3. Inori Intro
4. Inori
5. Snowdrops
6. Blue Eyed Doll
7. Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence
8. Utopia

Photos (click for high res)

(photo credits: Maya Bankovic)