tue 20/11/2018

CD: Ryuichi Sakamoto & Alva Noto - The Revenant Original Soundtrack | reviews, news & interviews

CD: Ryuichi Sakamoto & Alva Noto - The Revenant Original Soundtrack

CD: Ryuichi Sakamoto & Alva Noto - The Revenant Original Soundtrack

How does the leftfield superstar's bleak Western soundtrack stand up on its own?

'As strange and removed from quotidian reality as any of his small-label experiments of the 2000s'

Ryuichi Sakamoto must be the most low-key megastar around. He came to prominence with the witty electro of Yellow Magic Orchestra in the late 1970s, then with some era-defining soundtracks like Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence and The Last Emperor in the 1980s. Latterly, though, his work has been quite extraordinarily subdued and experimental – collaborations with far-leftfield glitch, electronica and ambient luminaries like Christian Fennesz, Carsten Nicolai aka Alva Noto, Sachiko M and Taylor Deupree – yet interest in him remains so great that when I published a short interview with him and Deupree last year it was read and shared hundreds of thousands of times: way more than one would ever expect for an artist so out-there.

So it was fascinating to see what he would come out with when he pursued a more mainstream project: the soundtrack for big-budget but bleak man-vs-nature western The Revenant. He hasn't disappointed. This soundtrack, which works perfectly as a standalone album, has super high production values and classical elements (orchestrated by Bryce Dessener of big-league indie band The National and experimental side-project Clogs), but it remains as strange and removed from quotidian reality as any of his small-label experiments of the 2000s: previous collaborator Alva Noto is co-producer. 

This is ambient music in its truest form: hazy forms hang in the air, closer to scents or fluctuations in temperature in their evocative intangibility than to anything more representative – yet it is as emotionally powerful as any grandiose melody. It's tempting to question whether the sense of stasis and disappearance in Sakamoto's latterday music is related to his own brushes with mortality – he was diagnosed with throat cancer in 2014 – but actually when presented with sound-making this stately and perfect in its ineffability, all mundane explanations seem small and petty in comparison. Sakamoto's popularity and status as one of the greatest living musicians is entirely deserved.

The soundtrack remains as strange and removed from quotidian reality as any of his small-label experiments of the 2000s

rating

Editor Rating: 
5
Average: 5 (1 vote)

Share this article

Add comment

Subscribe to theartsdesk.com

Thank you for continuing to read our work on theartsdesk.com. For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 10,000 pieces, we're asking for £3.95 per month or £30 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.

To take an annual subscription now simply click here.

And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a theartsdesk.com gift subscription?

newsletter

Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters