Since I’m not much of a winter sports enthusiast and have no idea what else can be enjoyed in the area, I’ve never traveled to Nagano. Accordingly, my perceptions of the prefecture mostly stem from the 1998 Olympics or, more appropriately, the subsequent video game that came out for the Nintendo 64. In my mind Nagano is nothing but blankets of sheet-like snow, dotted by abandoned luge tracks and snowboard judges who won’t give you the gold medal unless you pull of a 1080 spin. In my mind Nagano is a lonely stretch of country occupied mostly by skiing enthusiasts, sadly lined up with Clearwater for an American sister city. I also read somewhere people eat bugs out there.
Shohei Hara’s Metoba Traffic project calls Nagano home, specifically the pleasant-sounding city of Matsumoto. Though Hara probably doesn’t call an old ski-lift in the middle of nowhere home, the music of Metoba Traffic comes off like the product of a lot of time spent inside one’s own head. The lullaby-like quality song along with the general twinkle-ness makes comparisons to Lullatone pretty easy, but Hara isn’t just trying to play something before nodding off. His songs make use of breakbeats reconfigured into non-aggressive pieces, making “Agata No Mori” and the slow-building “Vega” bright little dance numbers. Yet Hara’s most impressive work comes on the skeletal “Cough,” a minimalist melody punctured by wheezy beats and various video game flourishes (I think I heard the Pac-Man death noise?). It’s the sonic equivalent of an overly-excited child sitting in his room, occupied only by imagination and memories of N64 from a few hours before. Nagano might have had no impact in these recordings, but at the very least now I know there is some cool stuff coming out of that region. Listen here.