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Minamo, "Durée"

cover imageHaving been stalwarts in the Japanese electroacoustic microsound scene for over a decade now, the quartet has always focused on unifying the usually disparate worlds of laptop based programming and improvised organic music.  For their second release on the 12k label, they have done exactly that, marrying acoustic guitar with software patches, all presented in a warm, post-rock influenced analog audio bath.

 

12k

Minamo - Durée

The opening of "Elementary Domain" matches beeping tones and distant noises with the untreated pure sound of guitar strings and bells.  The structure is definitely one of a more abstract and laptop-composed nature, but the parts used are definitely warm ambient pop, weaving together a complex piece that is far more natural and inviting than expected.  "Help Ourselves" has a similar feeling to it, but employs a great deal of warm piano, shimmering analog strings, and all so subtle laptop noises.

Surprisingly enough, the remainder of the songs are, for the most part, actually more "natural" sounding. "When Unwelt Melts" is a slow building piece that begins with the gentle chimes of a music box, with a bit of acoustic guitar above.  As it continues, the addition of analog and digital instrumentation fleshes out the song, leading through a natural evolution that delicate and beautiful.  "Helical Scenery" also joins acoustic guitar and shaker percussion with soft synth textures.  As the track is given room to grow and change, lush accordion-like tones and more pronounced guitar intermingle above the subtle keyboards.

Towards the latter half of the disc the music becomes slightly more forceful and obtuse, but never out of control.  "Be Born" mixes lush, infinite harmonium and harmonica passages with abstract organ noodling, and by the time the massive, crashing percussion shows up at the end, the track rivals some of the best krautrock out there.  The long piece, "First Breathing At Last," again uses the digital elements as instruments alongside synths and guitar to create a structured, yet rhythmically disjointed piece that definitely has structure to it, but a very abstract and esoteric one.  The track allows the heavier synths and electronics to rise up at the end, creating a heavy, but not oppressive sensation.

One thing that separates them from so many other laptop artists is the fact that Minamo is a band.  They play together, mostly working with live recordings, and use laptops and other digital based technology as instruments, not as a crutch.  The music they create has that organic, "live" feel to it, even though the instrumentation is at times anything but traditional.  Like label mates Small Color, there is a warmth and soul here, proving that digital music does not need to be abrasive and inhuman.

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Review of the Day

Cyclotimia, "Trivial Pleasures"
Monopoly
Within 25 minutes of pressing play everything in this space will be bleached, cleansed, and returned to its proper place. There is nothing out of place, no surface smudged, and no voices speaking above eachother; everything is closely, carefully, and painfully monitored. Cyclotimia's cold, cold presentation makes the setting of Orwell's 1984 seem like a happy place filled with the vibrant activity of free and strong people. The mechanical and soulless presentation makes sense, though: Trivial Pleasures comes with a booklet that outlines Nasdaq's personal mission statement and provides information on "Miniaturized, Implantable Identification Technology;" the implication is clearly that of a Big Brother atmosphere. In addition, this album was apparently inspired by Wim Merten's For Amusement Only, a composition written for pinball machines. The inspiration shows: many of the sounds are repeated loops of chimey and high pitched rings modulating through various tones. The effect is dizzying and somewhat frightening. The sounds of knives scratching together crash into a chaos of tin and other metals crushing together while synthesizers moan deep beneath the surface of some icey landscape - this is not intended for pleasant afternoon listening. For all of its alien facts, Trivial Pleasures is surprisingly fun to listen to. There's an element of cynicism that has to be appreciated in songs like "Market Experts." Horrible machines used to grind human bones to pulp churn underneath a repeated vocal loop... "analyzed by experts, analyzed by experts, analyzed by experts." Everything is perfectly safe, trust me! All that happens here is in the best interest of the people! Nothing here could be possibly be of any harm, right? And with a laugh Cyclotimia grin and continue to grind out the choking sound of capitalist industry. Though this kind of jumbled noise would normally turn me off, Trivial Pleasures manages to keep my interest. Granted, it's a short album, but that only works to its advantage.

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