Hiro Kawahara is a Japanese experimental musician who has been releasing material under his own name or using the band name Heretic for more than 30 years. There have been times when Heretic have been a proper band, or Hiro and guests, or others when he has been the only member but always with the same aim of taking influences from the likes of Heldon (in particular) and Tangerine Dream and imbibing them with Japanese hints and nuances to create something which is challenging and confronting all at the same time. This compilation has been put together in album sequence, but many of these have additional tracks so the complete set is 62 tracks with a total running time of more than 13 hours. Yes, you read that correctly, 13 hours 36 minutes to be precise and I played it through twice before I started to understand what was going on.
This is not music which is easy to listen to or comprehend, and it would be very easy indeed to discard it as the noodlings of someone sat in a studio with little else to do and no interest in the rest of the world. However, if one is prepared to spend the time really listening to what is going on then one will find a great deal in here to discover and enjoy. It is not meant to be something to settle back with and relax, but is designed to have the listener work hard – not all art is meant to be easy, and sometimes it is the extra effort which gives the greatest rewards. This is music which must be played on headphones and one needs to really listen and pay attention, as this is angular and sharp, never settling and there is a danger of missing what is going on. It is a lot to take in but I am sure I would never have got inside and appreciated this nearly as much if I had just played the odd track (which are often 30 minutes in length) or bits of albums. Cuneiform have somewhat hedged their bets on this one as while it is possible to purchase this as ‘Complete Works’ they have also made the individual albums available as well. However, given the complete set is only $75, if this style of music is of interest then I would just jump on and get this as not only is it the best value for money it is certainly the best way to understand Hiro.
Not for the fainthearted, this is yet another essential extended set from Cuneiform Records. 8/10 Kev Rowland