Toshiaki Kanamaru

Human Feelings 2006 CD $12.

review by Greg Howard

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Human Feelings is Japanese Stickist Toshiaki Kanamaru's second CD, and his first to feature both 10-string Stick® and the new Alto Stick™. I recently had the pleasure of sharing the stage with Toshiaki at a club in Japan. He's an engaging and entertaining live performer, and one of the few Stickists in Japan who's actively pursuing a full-time music career. His performance was all solo, without accompaniment of any kind, so I had no idea what to expect from this well-produced studio recording. And while the title might conjure up images of New Age music, Toshiaki's compositions are more like pop tunes, pure distillations of moods, placed in carefully orchestrated forms. The melodies are catchy, and built upon some sophisticated harmonic underpinnings. All the tracks have a joyous quality, even the more serene ones.

Stylistically, Human Feelings is quite diverse, with everything from grandiose Celtic anthems and high-energy Euro-disco ("Go For It!") to a surprise Alto solo cover of Richard Rodgers' "Edelweiss" (all the other tracks are Kanamaru originals). But there's enough sonic consistency that the program flows very nicely.

Stick players will recognize Emmett's powerful bass motor technique on "Spirits", and appreciate some uniquely Stickish chord suspensions on "Darkness". Another rewarding aspect of Toshiaki's composing is his ability to leap out of modal constructs, introducing surprising Middle Eastern or Latin American melodic ideas that fit perfectly into his pieces. His skill in balancing what could be a too-sweet melody with a harmonically complex bridge melody is remarkable, and he does it over and over again.

In addition to being a natural, lyrical musician and a skilled and precise Stickist, Toshiaki is also a clever and inspired composer of electronic music, with full command of all the production techniques he needs to make the most of all these skills. His soundbeds and orchestrations are as complex or subtle as they need to be to get his mood across. He clearly knows how to support his lead voices, big Stick chords and powerful bass lines with a realistic accompaniment that has a "human feeling" of its own.

His artful weaving of Stick, Alto Stick and acoustic guitar into electronic composed accompaniment has a very natural feel. Where others would be content to program a loop and jam along with it, Toshiaki builds complete arrangements, with a lot of attention to sonic detail. The result is energetic music with intensity and release, and a very entertaining listen.

Human Feelings
Track Listing

1. IIhatobu (10-string and Alto)
2. Go For It! (10-string)
3. Spirits (10-string)
4. Darkness (10-string)
5. Heartbeat (10-string)
6. Edelweiss (Alto)
7. Nature Tales (10-string)
8. GoodDog Happyman (10-string and Alto)
9. Song for Friends (Alto)

Check out Toshiaki Kanamaru's website:
and sample tracks on his myspace page.