Sunday, 3 January 2010

A Japanese Poker On Taâlem

Can’t remember if I already reviewed the second-to-last batch that Jean-Marc - boss of this label devoted to contemporary ambient and relative derivates - had sent me earlier (hopefully yes and, in any case, thanks JM!). Yet I managed to listen to these four several times, in different conditions. Speakers are highly recommended for all these 3-inch CDs.


The best of the batch, and not by a little. A mesmerizing soundscape constructed upon gently wavering guitars that sound like if their wooden bodies were left to float in a placid sea under the summer sun. The winning card is constituted by the slight, but extremely effective harmonic shift occurring after 15 minutes or so which creates a fascinating movement in the music, thus rendering the piece a true composition that can live autonomously, beyond its ambient status. The plucked strings (some of them acoustic guitars, others perhaps kotos, the rest is there to be guessed) are very well deployed amidst the vapours, the consequent underlying reverberations unquestionably beautiful. Hatakeyama has already published records on Kranky, Spekk and Room40, and it shows.


A mixed bag that starts with an excessively tonal, if well crafted piece, continues with several minutes of absolutely useless processed liquid sounds (it could be an underwater recording, but it’s just ugly) and – luckily - ends with the best track, a calmly resonating stasis that, at low volume, is pleasant enough. Declared influences: Reich and Ligeti. I didn’t hear a second of them. Let’s not swear at the gods, please.


A multimedia artistic collective, the music created by Hiroki Sasashima and Takahisa Hirao. The first segment is an ethereal electronic suspension resembling thousands of similar ones, and that for good measure reveals horrific presets (something that, as you know, is very much hated here). Things get better with the subsequent tracks, always static yet quite alluring in their combination of pulse and choral motionlessness. The finale is a bit on the “invocation to the setting sun” side, still nicely droning for our relaxing pleasure. The whole is rather easy on the ears, yet there’s at least a degree of dignity (but those synthetic voices…oh, boy).


A plastic miniature replica of the perpetual looping brought to fame by William Basinski made with guitars and effects, superimposed and layered for 23 minutes. It goes on and on without changing, aesthetically acceptable but meaning absolutely nothing in terms of artistic weight. Useful (hardly) as a background wallpaper – which indeed is what ambient should always be, right? Frankly, I myself could release three CDs of similar stuff a day and maybe my economy would be a little better. Real prayers - and real music, which is the same - are completely different matters, you know.