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Tomoroh Hidari Small Dreams

Handing over the mic to artists/musicians who break down their new albums track by track/share the thought process behind the creation. Today we’ll hear from Tomoroh Hidari (nee Oliver Stummer), Austrian artist currently based in London.

His new album 小さな夢達 (Small Dreams) is out now on Bulgarian label Mahorka. In addition to his solo work (as TH and his Namelessness is Legion), Stummer was a member of industrial/darkwave band Kreuzweg Ost along with Martin Schirenc (Hollenthon / ex-Pungent Stench) and Martin Gregor (Summoning / ex-Abigor).


The title – 小さな夢達 (Chiisana Yumetachi) – translates as “Small Dreams”. This is actually a line from one of my favorite Maison Book Girl tunes, a track off their 夢 (Yume) album called Semai Monogatari (狭い物語). The idea to use this as a title came to me when I saw them live in Shibuya on the last night of my first (and so far only) trip to Japan in Autumn 2019. It was a revelatory moment, I just knew the name was right for the work in progress (all but two of the tracks that eventually made it onto this album were at least begun at the time) and it helped shape its final form.

It’s also to some degree a tribute, because Maison Book Girl are among a small number of groups and artists that renewed my enthusiasm for music and inspired me to create again.

Combined with re-reading Musashi and reading Dogen, Taisen Deshimaru, Takuan Soho, Swedenborg, C.G. Jung and more a theme and overall philosophy for the album began to emerge. (And, possibly, going forward, we may see this topic influence further Tomoroh Hidari releases).

The picture of the cover (design by dfkt who also does all the cover for my releases on ivorybunkerrecordings.bandcamp.com) was taken at a Shinto shrine in Tokyo. The specific meaning behind the choice of this cover I’m not giving away…

The following are short pretty much stream of consciousness notes, in retrospect, on the various tracks


Sword of no Sword

The title is a reference to Myamoto Musashi, author of The Book Of Five Rings and one of the most important classical Martial Arts writers. His teaching is deeply influenced by Zen Buddhism and a lot of it can be read as general life advice. He’s also credited as the inventor of Niten Ichi-ryū, the two sword technique. But this is already a Photek title. Photek has certainly had an influence an me, even if not generally obvious in my music. I try not to copy my influences, but rather take something of the philosophy in their approach and let that inform my approach, but not too much my aesthetic.

The background noises and drones are manipulated field recordings of skaters at the Southbank in London and trains going over nearby Hungerford Bridge. The glitchy piano has for a while now been among my favourite sonic textures and can also be heard, for example, on “Pleiades” on Some Stars not yet Black Holes.


空 (read: ku – meaning: emptiness. In the Buddhist/Zen meaning)

This is the second oldest track. Most of it was done back in Vienna before I moved to London, so it would’ve been before Oct. 2012. This version was finished in London in 2014-2015.

There’s an actual 303 on there which I had borrowed from a friend, and the cell phone interference happened as I was jamming with a vintage Nokia next to the 303. There’s a lot of “classic” dub going on there and the guitar, melodica etc. were all recorded and not sampled.

I’ve long been fascinated by this idea of emptiness – Resonant Mindlessness, my first his Namelessness Is Legion album is another variation on the topic.


Owl-Stretching Time

This is one of those very rare instances where the working title became the final title. It is, of course, the title of the very first episode of Monty Python’s Flying Circus, a program that has had (and still has) an enormous influence. Seeing stuff like this growing up in Austria opened up a plenitude of alleys of further inquiry, from weird literature to outsider art etc. It probably helped that it was shown in the framework of Austrian TV’s “Kunststucke”, which also featured Arthouse movies, art-documentaries and more – a treasure trove of introduction to arts and media.
The track itself was largely inspired by listening to a lot of 90s/00s IDM/Electronica/Ambient. The drones throughout are field-recordings of a garbage bag in the wind and an extremely loud and sort of musical toilet ventilation unit.


秋 (read: aki – meaning: autumn)

Autumn has always been my favourite time of the year, when things start calming down after the summer.
Here we’ve got the glitched up piano again with atmospheres in the background that are processed field recordings of brooks and (sea-)surf in Scotland. I didn’t record those myself, but found them on sampleweb. They, in the processed form we hear them now, are taken from an unused sketch for a track from when I created the music for the Regent Street Window project for Spacegroup Architects for the Penhaligon shop. (The two tracks that actually formed my contribution can now be found on my Regency EP). Stripping everything else and starting just with this backdrop the current track evolved.


猫ホップ (read: NekoHop)

This one and Yamadera were the last two tracks I recorded for this album. It’s build around a sample I recorded of To Kitten Therion purring. To Kitten Therion was one of two kittens of the cat that already lived in the house-share in Tottenham Hale, London when I moved in there. He befriended me and when his mother and brother moved out stayed with me. Sadly he was the victim of a RTA at only 6 months of age. Eventually this lead to me adopting Tiger, Lord Schnitzl Best ov Cats… But he doesn’t like to be recorded (and isn’t purring as loudly!) He’ll however feature in the video I’m working on at time of writing.
The Alan Watts sample I discovered more or less by coincidence as I was finishing the track. Yet, despite, as he points out, there not being a past, I discovered Alan Watts and started practicing Zen around the (now past) time I lost To Kitten Therion, so maybe there are synchronicities after all.


メランコリー (read: Melancholy)

This is the only Tomoroh Hidari track (a remix or two aside) that I started AND finished while living in Tottenham Hale, some others were finished there, some were started, many abandoned.
It was a strange place. Ghosts of cats and Babylonian regressions.
The track is a sort of shoegaze dub, with guitars, a Gakken Toy Theremin played through fx and guitar amp (simulated on the Line6 Pod XT) and some drones of origins no longer remembered.


山寺 (read: Yamadera – meaning Mountain Temple. A Temple in Yamagata Prefecture)

Yamadera is a beautiful Temple in the North of Japan. Climbing the over 1000 stairs from the valley up to the main hall on a clement November day was one of the highlights of my Japan trip last year. It’s also the place of inspiration for a famous Haiku by Bassho who is generally considered (one of) the greatest master(s) of the art. (There’s a museum dedicated to him in the town of Yamadera as well).
It literally means Mountain Temple, and as such the title has further ambiguity and pays reference to the monastery – Abtei Seckau – in the Austrian mountains where I went to high school, played in my first band and where I first composed the melody line & harmonies that I adapted into the leitmotif for this track.


Sketches of Pain

This is the oldest of the tracks. Recorded sometimes in strange aeons in Vienna, I came across it again when working on the album and it felt like it fit in well with these tracks. It is the only Tomoroh Hidari track (so far) that I do vocals on. Lyrically it describes a “before” to the ideas of non-attachment that inspired Chiisana Yumetachi. It is still giving too much power to dreams. Placing it at the end of the album, while it forms a beginning of the journey, makes the album become cyclical, the ever turning wheel of samsara.

The Lyrics are:

Like time’s sepia trick, on over-exposed photos
Though still memories linger, the enchantment is gone
This saturation may well have left its marks
They slowly fade to nostalgia, with lunacy’s ebbing away
At the threshold of pain, I shall meet you again
Inescapably
At the threshold of pain, I shall meet you again
in dream or reality, feels quite the same to me
At the threshold of pain, I shall meet you again
unexpected and unavoidably
At the threshold of pain, I shall meet you again
in dream or reality, it feels quite the same to me

Islington, July 2020

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