I will try my best not to dissect this butterfly, for the beauty of ‘Spiritual State’ is intrinsic -alive, even- and requires no deconstructive analysis. See the details in the fabric yourself; they are rich, and well-woven. Nor will I meaninglessly assign stars or half-stars. his review is merely a humble attempt at accurately reflecting the qualities of this album in terms of sound and meaning.
“It’s funny how the music put times in perspective. Add a soundtrack to your life and perfect it.” –Luv (Sic) Pt 3
Jun Seba’s final and posthumous album ‘Spiritual State‘ dropped a few days ago. For many, including myself, Nujabes was the gateway drug into a whole new world of music (heck, it may even be the reason why I’m living in Japan). And just like his other productions, it indeed proves to be a worthy soundtrack to life.
I will try my best not to dissect this butterfly, for the beauty of ‘Spiritual State’ is intrinsic -alive, even- and requires no deconstructive analysis. See the details in the fabric yourself; they are rich, and well-woven. Nor will I meaninglessly assign stars or half-stars. This review is merely a humble attempt at accurately reflecting the qualities of this album in terms of sound and meaning.
Jazz-hop heads familiar with Nujabes’ body of work should be happy to know that ‘Spiritual State’, in many ways, sounds just as fresh as the first time I heard a track from him. It goes without saying that this album should be listened to while expecting the unexpected. But then again, isn’t that slightly experimental goodness, without deviating too far from its core piano jazz roots, what has always kept listeners connected to Nujabes’ music to begin with? His studio was a laboratory and oh, how we did enjoy being the guinea pigs.
At the same time, there are familiar voices, tones and tempos throughout, so it is difficult to have any doubt: Nujabes made this. Close friends of Nujabes heavily involved with Hydeout Productions, Uyama Hiroto, Cise Starr, Pase Rock, Substantial, and Haruka Nakamura are also featured in half of the tracks. In ‘Dawn on the Side’, one can hear faint remnants of the ‘Spartacus‘ sample used in Seba’s first album for ‘The Final View’. Also evidenced by the track titles is Nujabes’ seemingly unchanged musical inspiration: seasons, nature, time, love, and spirituality. Considering his long-running discography, these elements bring a certain nostalgia to the table. Still, it would have been a nice surprise for the album to have featured that one notably missing voice of Shing02.
Naturally, in the few years time from ‘Modal Soul’ until his passing, a producer like Nujabes would have been busy…more than 14 tracks busy. So why these 14 tracks? Well, the neat thing about ‘Spiritual State’ is that the listener is left to wonder, free to create personal interpretations and connections with Jun Seba’s life. Such is posthumous art.
For example, in only these few days of listening, I have formed my own associations. In ‘Yes’, the staggered strong and weak double beat seem to mimic a heartbeat. The song also speaks positive lyrics in celebration Nujabes’ livelihood – the longest track on the album, an apt choice. But my favorite song by far is ‘Far Fowls’ – no pun intended. The track is upbeat and carries its melody effortlessly over triplet arpeggios. It feels like a journey into nature, where changes in the air are signaled by quickly variating wind instruments. On the other hand, not all songs are jubilant. ‘City Lights’, in contrast, is quiet and downbeat, like a drum in the rain. Pase Rock and Substantial’s voices are barely louder than the piano, almost as if they are showing respect for Nujabes in giving their last words, their eulogies saved in his final album for the world to hear.
Finally, the most interesting thing about ‘Spiritual State’ is that it requires some patience, just as the title suggests. Listen to it once, and you will find something beautiful. But listen again and again, and the music becomes an experience, a journey, a life. Something truly spiritual.