Tomoyoshi Date & Stijn Huwels – Hochu-Ekki-Tou

Tomoyoshi Date and Stijn Huwels are experts of the minimal. Both musicians are known for their collaborative affairs – Tomoyoshi as part of Illuha, Opitope, and Melodia, and Hüwels with Norihito Suda, Danny Clay, and James Murray as part of Silent Vigils. Their releases have appeared on such highly-esteemed labels as Dauw, Eilean, 12k, and Home Normal. Both have a passion for minimalism.

With hochu-ekki-tou (April 19, Home Normal), the pair conjure a long-lasting minimal atmosphere, running from the first second to the last drop. The pair complement one another to perfect degrees: both have a deep fascination for the art, maintaining the structure with delicate hands and soft tweaks which ebb, flow, and glow. They not only keep the music interesting, but they do it without jeopardising the drone’s sanctity, not wanting to deliberately interfere with its natural course and direction but adding tiny parts every now and then to the overall web of sound.

It’s somewhat of a balancing act. The sound must be fed in stages so as to keep it from going stale, to add colour, shade, and interest, but add too much and you run the risk of decaying its minimal foundations. Patience is key.

In some ways, minimal music is music of starvation. It requires the listener to go deeper, to go beneath its surface. Its lack of any real change is a crucial part of its self and its priceless beauty. It draws the musician towards it, pulling them into its sphere like a magnet. Then, and only then, does it reveal itself to be music of incredible depth, the opposite of a hunger, revealing well-fed, intensely satisfying music.

The tracks are naturally long, as they need the space to develop and unwind, stretching their legs. This is a record of deep listening, and its slow-moving development never for a second stops it from being interesting or immediate. Minimalism involves a close-up shot, after all.

There’s a nice parallel, a sweet contradiction, to the track, ‘ekki’, where sharp details come to the fore. Chips and scars come into view thanks to its high definition. A muted piano contradicts this proximity with a series of distant thumps, fingers treading over keys, coming from another part of the house and passing as if through thick walls. Looking at something in the distance will render it blurry. But something that’s extremely close can also appear blurred. The melody is like a whirlpool, slinking into the lower register and its inky depths, gradually expanding to take in more sounds.

Adding gentle electric guitar melodies and the purifying sound of running water, coda ‘tou’ is tranquil and involving, bringing the listener into a secret place and helping to clear the mind of its worry-creases. The guitar’s tone is fragile, changing as it rings out. Together, the pair make exceptional minimal music. You wouldn’t want anyone else.

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