Hiroki Tanaka Builds an Intricate Garden of Memory on 'Kaigo Kioku Kyoku'

BY Sarah ChodosPublished Oct 15, 2020

Kathleen Goring's favourite place is her garden. This is important in understanding the sound of Kaigo Kioku Kyoku, the debut album by her grandson, Hiroki Tanaka.

A garden is a marker of someone who takes pride in their home, yet it involves dirt and rain, and, like life, is messy and beautiful. Kaigo Kioku Kyoku is an impossibly intricate garden of sound springing from meditations on life and, in particular, death in all its messiness. The album is built around Tanaka's reflections on caring for an uncle with terminal cancer as well as for Goring as she experienced Alzheimer's disease.

Tanaka is best-known for having been the lead guitarist in art rockers Yamantaka // Sonic Titan, who theatrically blend Asian, European and Indigenous art forms. In full scale, Yamantaka // Sonic Titan are a performance art ensemble who scale down to a rock band for touring purposes. While Kaigo Kioku Kyoku seems to be even smaller scale, it is actually the fertile ground for something far grander than its initial quiet folk sound might suggest.

Theatrical elements are present in Kaigo Kioku Kyoku, as well as Japanese folk hymns, field recordings, spoken word poetry, and a solo harp rendition of the hymn "Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence," performed by Jacqueline Goring (Tanaka's aunt and Kathleen's daughter). The house in which Tanaka took care of Kathleen was also the house Tanaka was born in. The percussion in "Blue Eyed Doll" is created from found objects in that house.

In "Snowdrops," a 10 minute piece that combines experimental, folk, and spoken word, featuring a  reading of Tony Hoagland's poem "I Have Good News" and an interview with Goring on reminiscences of life and meditations on the meaning of life, she concludes by talking about how each snowdrop has a tiny source of heat that allows it to push through the frozen ground.

It seems a metaphor for the album: Tanaka's art carries him through a difficult chapter of his life.

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