thu 14/12/2017

CD: Ryuichi Sakamoto - async | reviews, news & interviews

CD: Ryuichi Sakamoto - async

CD: Ryuichi Sakamoto - async

Innovative fusion composer returns after illness to ponder mutability

Ramen anyone? Even Sakamoto can't entirely avoid the generic

The first solo album in eight years from legendary musical innovator Ryuichi Sakamoto resonates with misfire and melancholy - unsurprisingly, when much of that time has been dedicated to a battle against throat cancer. The organ, Bachian fugues, and a series of portentous narrations join a more familiar blend of dissonant and percussive tracks which, like the title “async”, blend a pervasive sense of an organism malfunctioning with a contemplative attitude to mortality and mutability. Even for a composer already known to span a giddy generic spectrum from Iggy Pop to John Cage, this is a diverse collection.

Opening track “andata”, a delicate, melancholy ballad, sets the tone as it migrates from piano to organ, and a threatening dissonance develops. The way in which darkness emerges from harmonious beginnings as tonality and instrumentation change mid-track is a technique Sakamoto captures masterfully. Dissonant, ominous, Messiaen-style organ washes also appear on “Garden”. Title track “async” and “disintegration” are the most experimental, with de-tuned piano and irregular percussion evoking a broken, diseased mechanism.   

Not all of it works. The album cover looks like the menu of any number of the Japanese cafes on the Kingsland Road. The narration on “life, life” about dreams and death sounds like Shakespeare’s Prospero turned Brighton yoga guru; and Sakamoto’s distinguished film composing background doesn't always help when there’s no picture to fill in the details: a couple of the more ambient tracks, particularly “Ff” and “Stakra”, are anonymous.

The release speaks a little absurdly of “ideas of a-synchronism, prime numbers, chaos, quantum physics”, but, minus hyperbole, Sakamoto’s musical and emotional inclusiveness is both impressive and effective. When he combines the acoustic warmth of strings and piano with the eerie, unsettling otherness of his effects, as on “ubi”, the results are irresistible. There are a very few musicians who could bring experimental techniques and a pop sensibility to the same project, and say something serious about illness and survival. With cancer defeated, Sakamoto has quite a tale to tell.   

@matthewwrighter

There are a very few musicians who could bring experimental techniques and a pop sensibility to the same project

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Average: 4 (1 vote)

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