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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.



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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Mutek 2003

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Review of the Day

Current 93, "Hypnagogue"
It has never been more clear that David Tibet lives in a completely idiosyncratic sphere of his own. Perhaps this is true for everyone, but Tibet's world seems particularly out of step with current trends in music, culture and thought. There is something terribly admirable and beguiling about that. Hypnagogue beautifully proves that Current 93 is continuing in its tangential orbit, and exists solely as the outlet for Tibet's poetic musings on Christ, cats, children, dreams, piety, horror, death, dread, decay and apocalypse. You're not going to find any concessions to glitch-pop or retro-electro here. This EP is designed to be a prologue to an upcoming full length, and it consists of nine tracks or "chapters" of a long poem called, appropriately, "Hypnagogue: A Dream Prologue." Like many of Current 93's recent works, it's impossible to rate this album based on the music alone, which is mostly incidental. The main focus is on the poetry, and if the listener is not willing to carefully absorb Tibet's linguistic imagery, the point of the music is lost. The musical accompaniment is minimal: Maja Elliott's impressionistic, Debussy-esque piano is the sole instrument. Her sad, skittering melodies serve to underscore Tibet's rhymeless, alliterative balladry. There are times when the piano brilliantly punctuates a passage, and others where its complex swirl of sound competes with Tibet's intense delivery. David Tibet is an impressive poet, his style remiscent of mystical and abstruse poets like T.S. Eliot, W.B. Yeats, and even Angus MacLise. The poesy is modern, but certainly not post-modern. There is no irony in Tibet's fatalistic prose, just a classic weaving of idiosyncratic metaphors that may or may not resonate, depending on the listener's willingness to listen and think about the complex symbolism. Like a true classical poet, Tibet even slips into Latin verse here and there. As a bonus, there is a web address on the inside cover where a PDF of the accompanying text can be downloaded, so that one can read along. From the topiary bunny on the cover to the obscure magical glyph at the front of the text, Current 93 and David Tibet defiantly resist any easy categorization. Though I fully expect that many people will find Hypnagogue hopelessly esoteric and even self-indulgent, I feel that it is a beatiful and unique work of art.


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