Kyoto-born, Berklee-educated guitarist Hiroya Tsukamoto gets his inspiration from touring. Travel brings out the best in him, with new places, new stories, and new experiences finding their way to the fretboard of his guitar, where they come to life in rich, subtle detail. Sometimes it’s the memories they evoke, like the haiku simplicity of “As If It Were Yesterday,” which begins in quiet, patient observation before shifting to something deeper—arpeggios that seem to describe an absence, a sense of longing, a recognition of loss. Sometimes, it’s just the movement of wind across a landscape, as in “Wide Clear Sky” or the gentle, steady movement of “How Time Like Water Flows.” And sometimes, it’s the distilled, unspeakable emotion beneath Tsukamoto’s comings and goings, as in “Leaving Again,” with its interwoven contradictions of ascending and descending lines, of wanting to go and wanting to stay.
Compared to his previous album, 2021’s Window to the World, Little River Canyon feels simpler, without the former’s loops or pedals, recorded live in the studio with only one guitar: an OM handmade by Vancouver’s Fabrizio Alberico that beautifully highlights the warmth of Tsukamoto’s playing. He’s vocalizing more than he did on the last album, too, and his voice—a tenor that aches on “Across the Seasons” and reassures on “Kindness”—has become the perfect, wordless accompaniment to his fingerpicking. It gives these compositions a greater complexity, a countermelody to push against the sweetness of his guitar and strike a balance between the seen and unseen worlds.