Thursday, May 18, 2017

Ryuichi Sakamoto - async (Milan)

Name me, currently the greatest name, not fortune or number of records sold, but influence in electronic music. OK let me change the question: greatest and maybe the oldest, and influence on generations after, THE ultimate star of Electronica? Could you answer me?
All hats down to
Georgeo Moroder and his funky beats, and all hats down to Jean-Michel Jarre and his melodies and spectacle music that celebrate life.
Let me answer for you:
Kraftwerk and Yellow Magic Orchestra. There is no debate here either. While Kraftwerk were perceive like some electronic geeks, even "robots", electronic music with pop-art aesthetic and conceptual art never had chance in Europe and USA, that was rockin' to the sound of electric guitar and virtual created messiahs: Rock'n'Roll superstars. Even if they manage to sell millions of records, influenced millions, but it is nothing, in compare to YMO.

Short story: Yellow Magic Orchestra were megastars in Japan, country that was already in digital age, and where synthesizers were cheap, and considered as normal instrument. Not only synths... rhythm machines, sequencers, and digital recording and all electronic instruments and gadgets - they were one of the first who used it constantly.They were the first to use sampling technique during recordings of their records. Yes you could buy it all very cheap at every corner. And they also combine music with politics, turning pop hits into musical subversion.

Also, they were on charts, they had number-ones, golden and platinum records.
They were a soundtrack to rising Japan economic boom!!! 
In Europe, specially in USA you were not being consider seriously as a musician with synth - "hey it is keyboard, a grown-up child's toy."  If Japan has the size of USA and  population, they would be Electronic Superstars. YMO were: Haroumi Hosono, Yukihiro Takhashi, and Ryuichi Sakamoto.

Today Ryuichi Sakamoto 65, is an Oscar winner composer (with Carsten Nikolai aka Alva Noto for The Revenant soundtrack), composer, pianist, producer, writer and even dancer. Man who survived throat cancer, have 20 solo studio albums, and also worked with Alva Noto (classic Raster-Noton records Vrioon and Summvs), Fennesz, David Sylvian, Thomas Dolby, and many more. Also worth to mention soundtracks for The Last Emperor, Handmaid's Tale, High Heels, Little Buddha, Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence just to mention the most important movies. This musical giant didn't release much in the last decade, duo his fight with cancer. 
But that battle thought him most valuable lesson:"After serious disease, you look at everyday life with fresh eyes. Doing normal things, like having breakfast or having a lunch, drinking glass of wine, it becomes a very, very joyous pleasure. I get this feeling with every day sounds.

After I read a couple of interviews, and in one interview Mr. Sakamoto mention that working on The Revenant, he discovered that the Nature itself could also be part musical piece.
And when you combine such a musical knowledge and skill, with allowing yourself field recordings - and after full remission, you could expect that this album will be about living your life to the fullest. Enjoying every breath. Also very important, async album has it's main inspiration from Andrei Tarkovsky's never made movie, imaginable movie. And when you connect dots about sense of end, the thought of "one day I wouldn't be alive", you immediately recognize themes of Tarkovsky's movies: life and death, and everything else between those two moments. Two moments that transcendent everything else.



async is very naturalistic album, even there is a lot of classical instruments, and some unnatural field recordings, and small samples, it is all about visioning a forest, and mild rain, and look to the hills, woods, and some valleys in the back. But in the head there is the clock that clicks away, but don't hurry - but quite opposite, enjoy these views, listen the rain, try to focus leaves of grass in the valley, or some leaf in the tree on the hill across.

Or very special track, for author of this lines, Walker - meditative track, but with constant sound of someones walking. Walker doesn't walk just trough forest, you can hear (if you listen carefully), that he change surface on which he walks - a subtle lesson of "walking through the life".

Then there is dramatic tune, that was originally made for Bertolucci's The Sheltering Sky, and he decide to loop a certain part of the text from the 30 years old movie, small line, and decide to play that same texts on English, Chinese and Russian language, in the same time.
Also same thing he did in the track called "LIFE,LIFE", and it is a poem by Tarkovksy's father Arseny, which the Sakamoto used to read a lot.

And finally one of my favorite tracks... wait whole album is masterpiece, but there is something about track "honj", with classic Japanese instrument and dramatic strings that build short, but strong emotion, with almost unheard, underline sound of the wind, and wind-chimes.

Album finishes with two great tracks "ff" and "garden", like a circle of life. I would said specially track "garden", with that fade-off drone, try to reflex moments of ending (not ending of life) but key to ending this album.


Please, cut yourself from the world, play this record, and you will see that you do not need my philosophy about async. Just listen, every detail is important. It's not another ambient/modern-classic album on the market.

Damir Plicanic

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