Ryuichi Sakamoto / Illuha / Taylor Deupree — Perpetual
Steinbrüchel — Parallel Landscapes
Ryuichi Sakamoto, Illuha (Corey Fuller & Tomoyoshi Date) and Taylor Deupree all joined forces in the midst of a fiery Japanese summer. Their live performance, which took place at the Yamaguchi Center for Arts and Media as part of its ten-year anniversary, was fortunately recorded, and “Perpetual”, named after the eternal, ageless magic of music, is the result.
This proved to be a deep experience for everyone involved, and you can hear why. These ambient experiments are full of little details, but they’re also a loose fit; lucid, tonally rich and lovely to behold. You don’t really listen to music such as this — it’s more of a full-body immersion, a baptism into the depths.
Subtle, gentle drones and dappled ambient tones paint a steady, tranquil portrait. Experimental this may be, but there’s still a steady, sure momentum at the heart of “Perpetual”. We’re never sure where it’s leading, and that’s a great thing. Rippling electronics sit quietly at the water’s side, cooling off after a day drenched in the wet heat of the summer. Piano, guitar, pump organ and synths all combine, but they never disassemble the music. The three movements are mysterious, shrouded in a cloak of wet, light fog. Indistinct drums occasionally pound from far away. The deeper, exotic synths that enter later are native to the jungles and the rainforests: lush, dense, possibly even eternal.
The electronic elements become the prevailing force, and while the birdsong tries to counter the synthesised blips, the oh-so-sweet sound can’t win the battle. The music unfolds slowly. The frequencies quiver and wobble. Sounds rattle and crash. Lost, grainy voices and silky tones wrap their arms, or branches, around the thicker texture of the foliage. A piano plays sporadically, and a bass jumps around the major intervals. What does it all mean? “Perpetual” is a reminder of the permanence of quality.
Up next on 12k, Swiss musician Steinbrüchel invites us into his “Parallel Landscapes”. The album wants to design music, to let it linger naturally. Layers of soft notes rise up and fold over each other, like overlapping autumnal leaves. Sometimes they collide, but when they do it’s more of a gentle nudge than anything else. It has that special kind of stillness that’s only going to be found when the music just lays there, uninterrupted. Bells carry off into the distance, chiming sweetly. They twinkle like a handful of stars, bright-eyed children from the Andromeda Galaxy.
Music is a landscape – its topography (pitch) gently climbs until it reaches a hilltop, and the sparse music takes us by the hand to an open place washed hazily by emerald trees and sponge-soft branches. The uneven, and completely natural, lie of the land has been shaped and fashioned over time, and the end result is a unique kind of geography. It dips and inflates, and it appears to have stayed that way for centuries.
The cute and innocent notes twirl slowly, hovering over a soft, sleepy crib. They don’t want to cause any trouble — they’re ambient peacemakers, and they uphold the ambient world with cushioned batons and chiming harmonies in place of sirens. Only a light dusting of static comes through on the radio. When they reach their journey’s end, they gently curve up to their tonal resolution and stay there, content with a hot cup of tea and cuddle-soft sheets. A thin, snowy covering of static grazes the music, filling the space in the close-to-silent void. This is a de-stresser, a detox for your January and the winter blues that, surely enough, makes itself known as it enters through the gap in the door. Parallel Landscapes is close to heavenly: non-intrusive, distilled and pure.