The Quietus - A new rock music and pop culture website


Shuta Hasunuma
unpeople Daniel Hignell , October 9th, 2023 08:47

Unpeople leaps in every direction at once, only sometimes landing squarely on its feet, finds Daniel Hignell

Artists that attempt to meld together a seemingly endless list of styles and genres are the musical equivalent of marmite. For some, they represent a bold attempt to find synergy between potential incongruous sonic disciplines; for others, they come off as kind of annoying. Shuta Hasunuma’s frenetic, all-encompassing new album sits in just this cultural nook – a work that I simultaneously feel the need to proclaim as compositional brilliance and a kooky irritant.

For those who lean into its charms, unpeople offers a pleasing blend of jovial riffs and well-honed beeps and glitches, a sound world akin, at times, to the down-tempo electronica and parent-friendly drum ’n bass of the mid 2000s, albeit with a little more energy. Airy synth lines, seemingly drawn from one of those cheesy charity-shop records with a name like The Transcendental Power of Moog, flitter against downsampled beats and jaunty baselines. Or, taking a breath, the album descends into a fractured wash of warm glitches balanced against a meandering jazz guitar, crackling, granular drones pulsating against a sea of clicks.

In its more experimental moments, however, the album synthesises its broad horizon of influences into a surprisingly coherent whole. The title track is particularly broken – and better for it: washes of glitch and soft distortion frame plodding 8-bit riffs, a reverb-drenched piano and some stirring strings trying to ground things in the realm of the normal (but thankfully failing).

Hasunuma’s penchant for intriguing sound-design is a constant throughout the album, a trait that jostles with a competing penchant for sleazy, cheesy jazz. A track like ‘Lunar Mare’ surrenders any desire to be a real song, and offers instead a wondrously smattering of loose, minimalist abstract percussion above fizzing tones and some borderline atonal trumpet workouts. Indeed, the second-half of the album is altogether more confident in its sound world, spending far longer presenting and reframing its material than trying to add unnecessary structure in any traditional sense.

unpeople is, by design, a mixed bag: a hodgepodge of ideas, techniques and styles. There’s a lot to love – particularly in the sense of abandonment by which it throws together otherwise unrelated sounds – but an equal requirement to look past the composer’s love of some rather saccharine electro-jazz workouts. Ultimately a work of deconstruction, the albums shines when it truly commits to breaking down its diversity of material – and suffers, to my ear at least, when it instead breaks into song.