Minamo and Lawrence English – A Path Less Travelled
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Originally released on CD by Room40 in 2010, the reissue of Minamo and Lawrence English’s “A Path Less Travelled” in a vinyl edition from Immune Recordings is a good excuse to revisit the album and listen again from another perspective. Two years is, after all, not such a long time, and “A Path Less Travelled” hardly sounds dated. All the ‘signature’ elements of the artists involved are present and correct: Minamo’s simple ostinatos and penchant for wistful acoustic pop, English’s syrupy warm ambiances. Whereas some artists take collaborations as an opportunity to try something completely different, here it is more a question of combining pre-existing approaches, of learning how to make space in your sound for another element, another artistic voice — a process often more challenging and fraught with danger than starting again from scratch. Happily, the Japanese ensemble’s plinky-plonky melodies leave plenty of room in the acoustic spectrum to be filled by the woolly sonic blanket of their collaborator, occasionally driven along by an acoustic guitar.
What I find most interesting about this release is that it often gives the impression of calmness and stillness, even as it surges with a tangible energy. The effect is perhaps comparable to looking out of the window of a plane, watching the clouds drift by and feeling that you’re hardly moving, even though you know yourself to be zooming through the air at hundreds of miles per hour (and you’d like to think that at some somatic level, you can feel it). The press release describes the album as “collect[ing] distant sonic smoke signals passed between one island and another”, and it certainly evokes a sense of transit, although perhaps this is not quite the same thing as transitoriness — the music implies a persistent state of travel, rather than a fleeting event of disappearance. The ostinatos end, but they might as well not have done. If contemporary life is about constant change, uprooting and re- and dis-location, perhaps what Minamo and English offer is the possibility of a certain abiding-in-motion, of being at home on the move — maybe the only kind of grounding currently available. In their hands, the sensation of travel itself becomes intensely beautiful, though always directed towards a future destination.
Immune Recordings have releases by some great artists among their back catalogue, including Rafael Anton Irisarri, Ilyas Ahmed, Simon Scott and Steven R. Smith, and “A Path Less Travelled” is another fine addition. While the phrase ‘timeless classic’ seems somewhat anachronistic these days — what I need to hear now isn’t what I needed to hear a decade ago — the chance to listen from a different vantage point, and maybe allow other, unforeseen connections to proliferate, is always a welcome one.
- Nathan Thomas for Fluid Radio