Atsuko Hatano “Insulated Paradise”

Japanese composer Atsuko Hatano’s longform pieces from the past year have been a revelation. With her latest, Insulated Parade, she reaches new levels. Throughout the 37-minute release, Hatano evokes dreams of better times in imagined worlds. The way it unfolds, elegantly changing direction and shape as her aural universe grows before circling back to the beginning, replete with a fresh perspective, is emotionally captivating.

Insulated Parade begins with Hatano’s viola sauntering into a dream state, languidly moving through a portal to unconsciousness. Closed eyes, the sound gently builds into a meditative breeze. Drones grind beneath while electronic chimes indicate arrival at the gates. Hatano creates an intimate tension with flying staccatos shooting off into the cosmos before she directs a cinematic return to the ground. The feeling of a full-string ensemble grows into a glowing heart, beckoning all those who are broken to find a way into this warm embrace. Insulated Parade is a shelter away from the constant battering of the outside world.

Through the middle passages, Hatano’s ability to craft a combined sense of relief and wonder is so impressive. Layer-upon layer adds to the overwhelming feeling of appreciation for this space with synths adding new, somber textures. It intensifies until becoming too overwhelming to handle at which point Hatano pulls almost everything back to the ground. Eyes closed again, the next phase of the journey begins.

There’s a disparate minimalism that churns through during the latter half of Insulated Parade, even dipping into retrofuturistic kosmische zones before the strings begin to grow again. Hatano drives ahead, as her viola ascends skyward in triumph. It’s the culmination of processing those hard times and fraught sentiments, finding closure, and jettisoning the poison into the ether. This is the true gift, the winning hand. Beyond the borders of this fictional utopia is a newfound life where difficult seasons are faced down and hard truths solidly won. Atsuko Hatano continues her impressive sonic explorations with this stunning new chapter.

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