Own It or Disown It: #265: Eden Kai, Feel the Earth

OwnItorDisownIt

Our month-long look at contemporary Japanese music continues with one of the strongest acoustic instrumental albums we've heard in some time.
Eden Kai Feel the Earth

There’s this weird reality show on Netflix called Terrace House. I say “weird”, but it is only weird in that it isn’t all that weird at all, which is weird for a reality show. Terrace House is Japanese Real World with even fewer stakes: participants are given a beautiful house and car and a camera crew to follow them. There’s nothing to win, they’re not given a per diem or job (they have to find one for themselves if they don’t intend on burning through savings while on the show), and they are so disposed against the usual reality show outbursts that episodes usually cover a week or so of their lives while Real World gets a whole season out of a month or two of shooting. This slow burn might not be to everyone’s tastes, but it pays off when really wacky shit happens, which manages to stand out harder than it would in a show of unbridled lunacy.

Among the more amusing instances in the Aloha State series is the moment the entire cast realizes how talented one of their peers is. Eden Kai spends the first few episodes lugging around his guitar and playing simple ditties at the request of, well, anyone who asks, to polite applause. He casually mentions that he’s been nominated for an award, but nobody catches on to how good he is until they watch him perform at a local school. They become downright gobsmacked at the technical ability he exhibits, conjuring what could easily pass as the work of an entire band from his one instrument. I’m willing to bet this one scene did more to drive Americans to his Bandcamp than any bit of promotion being nominated for an international award gave him.

There’s seemingly no additional bells and whistles in the man’s studio work. The album notes of his second album, Feel the Earth, only communicate that they almost exclusively consist of solo acoustic guitar and ukulele compositions, with only one track featuring outside work. I’d not be surprised if none of these tracks feature any additional dubbing, that each track (save “Hero’s Valley”) is just him playing through each song by himself. There’s not even any singing, just Eden Kai’s virtuosic skills on display for an entire album. If that’s all you need from music, Feel the Earth might be your new favorite album of all time.

This assumes, though, that you care little or nothing about pacing or variety. Eden Kai has one note that he might hit harder than anyone else these days, but he’s still hitting the one note, of being vaguely happy, which is a frustrating place to stay in even on a brief album like this. His phenomenal technical abilities give this greater life than similar acts working in this emotional space, but it still feels like Feel the Earth ends three tracks later than it should.

In other words, Feel the Earth might be the greatest vaguely-happy acoustic guitar album of all time, and it still has room for improvement. I’m taking that as a sign to be hopeful for the future.

VERDICT: OWN

Read past editions of Own It or Disown It.

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