Nujabes is one of those artists that left such a strong impression on his listeners and created such an important legacy that he will never be forgotten. His music will still be celebrated for decades to come and many producers will continue to be inspired by the late genius, in the same way as they are with J. Dilla, who was similarly discreet and mysterious, becoming a sort of icon after his untimely death. The two producers actually have many common points besides their departure at the same early age, the most important of them being how they changed the way people perceive and produce music. This third album by Nujabes is yet another piece that will help build his legacy and almost sounds like a message from the other side from the late producer. All the elements that were present in his previous projects and that can be described as his signature sound can be found in Spiritual State, but there is an enhanced feeling of mystery and spirituality, as is emphasised with the title.
NOTE: All audio tracks are streaming only.
This is probably a question of perception, but the first thing that struck me when I started listening to Spiritual State is precisely the importance of spirituality and mystery, which didn’t really surprise me after all, since Nujabes always infused his music with otherwordly elements. I mentioned perception and it is probably quite difficult not to listen to the late producer’s music now without incorporating some feelings and emotions related to his passing.
I may be going to far with this, but the first track, appropriately titled Spiritual State, sounds like a message from wherever he is now, a way to share his soul through the instrumental. The beautiful piano creates a dreamy atmosphere and provides some delicate, soothing music. The melodies are simple and pure while the horns underline and reinforce the depth of the message. Other tracks like Spiral, with the ethereal vocals, Dawn On The Side, with its magnificent and peaceful flute, or Prayer, with the perfect combination of the lovely piano and the flute, all contain this spiritual element and strengthen the sense of mystery of the album.
[wpaudio url=”http://wordisbond.data.s3.amazonaws.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/13-Prayer.mp3″ text=”Nujabes – Prayer” dl=”0″]
Another element I find quite noteworthy is the poetic dimension of Spiritual State, which is first made obvious with the magnificent cover artwork, reminiscent of a dream. The different MCs featured on the album also use beautiful metaphors to depict their reality, while Nujabes created a whole imagery and scenery with the titles, but also with the music itself that lets your mind wander in a sort of land of fantasy and perfection, travelling through space and time.
One of the most striking examples is Colour of Autumn, which is heavily inspired by jazz music with the enchanting piano and its poetic notes, and that really captures the essence of this season of changes and transition. Far Fowls, another of those vivid and chimerical tracks, draws you in thanks to the strong Asian influences and takes you on a journey to Japan as you follow the hypnotic strings and flute, imagining you are the hero of an anime or an epic samurai tale.
[wpaudio url=”http://wordisbond.data.s3.amazonaws.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/10-Far-Fowls-1.mp3″ text=”Nujabes – Far Fowls” dl=”0″]
In addition to the spiritual and poetic dimensions of the project, Spiritual State also contains Nujabes’ trademark peaceful and soothing sound that should help you reflect on your life and meditate, but also a more melancholic and nostalgic tone that is infused in all of his music. The producer was a very introspective and mysterious person who put his heart and soul in his art and shared his innermost feelings and different moods through the music. This is clearly noticeable here, especially with tracks like Rainyway Back Home, one of the most melancholic tracks of the album, where the producer managed to recreate a rainy evening with the wistful piano and head-nodding beat. Island is a perfect choice to close the album, with its beautiful introspective dimension, where the piano’s emotional notes and slow pace, as well as the powerful percussions and deep horns make you reflect upon your life and the universe.
[wpaudio url=”http://wordisbond.data.s3.amazonaws.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/09-Rainyway-Back-Home.mp3″ text=”Nujabes – Rainyway Back Home” dl=”0″]
Finally, the only thing I haven’t mentioned yet is the collaborations on this album, which make it complete and give an enhanced sense of inspiration. Frequent collaborator and fellow producer Uyama Hiroto adds a magic touch with the incredible horns on several tracks, while MCs Cise Star, Pase Rock and Substantial complement the perfect instrumentals with their flow and well-written lyrics. Most of the tracks where they appear are very inspiring and uplifting, as they spread positive messages about life and the importance of reaching for your dreams.
Yes is an affirmation, a celebration of life and love, where Pase Rock shares his gratitude to be alive and surrounded by loved ones as well as a very interesting motto, “Life, love, dance, sing, no war, stay free“. On Sky Is Tumbling, Cise Star depicts life and death with beautiful metaphors and imagery, while Substantial displays very positive lyrics encouraging you to shine on Waiting For The Clouds, another metaphor-filled track that is highly inspiring.
[wpaudio url=”http://wordisbond.data.s3.amazonaws.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/02-Sky-is-Tumbling-featuring-Cise-Star-1.mp3″ text=”Nujabes – Sky is Tumbling (featuring Cise Star)” dl=”0″]
Spiritual State sounds like the perfect follow up to Nujabes’ previous projects, even though it was unfinished at the time of his death and could have sounded slightly different if things didn’t turn out the way they did. Nevertheless, it is an additional piece in the late producer’s legacy and obviously doesn’t disappoint, such is its beauty and soothing power. With several tracks over five minutes long, it is not an album you could listen to regularly and put on repeat. It is more like a treat, a gem that will be played on special occasions and will allow you to immerse yourself completely into its dreamy atmosphere and reach deep within you to reflect upon the beauty of life and love. It is the kind of album that makes me feel blessed to be alive and grateful I can be touched by such talented geniuses as Nujabes. May he rest in peace and continue to shine through his music.