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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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Review of the Day

In most places where this is listed for sale, it is called "1", not ""; just so you know if you're looking for it. Michael Fakesch (Funkstörung) wrote a glowing review of it, and that is what most folks post as a blurb. And why not? Fakesch (and Deluca) released it on their excellent Musik Aus Strom, and one can see where it crosses lines with their music. Where Funkstörung just cant seem to help themselves in the "I'm-not-gunna-let- this-beat-run-in- straight-meter" tomfuckery, Crunch lets the beats run in straight meter. He picks some highly digitized sounds and builds with that, none of the 4000 samples per 3 minutes here. There are changes, great changes, sweeping changes within each track even, but it seems more within the scope of the track. If you've ever thought or said, "this funkstörung record is great but i wish they'd keep a beat and stop showing me how many millions of samples they have stored", then this is close to what you asked for. Most of the record is decidedly downtempo, either head-noddingly slow, pulse beat or beatless; synth washes are generally on the somber side, with melodies subtle and often quite beautiful. Most of the programming sounds pretty complex, if controlled. Headphones are recommended for occasional use. Overall, this is very nicely varied electronic music, really one of the best in recent months I've heard. Somehow original sounding enough in a genre fast becoming homogenous. If you get the chance, get it on thick slabby double vinyl, in the great sleeve Fakesch got gooey about. I don't have anything bad to say about this record and I'm really looking forward to other stuff from this anonymous outfit. If you want a comparison beyond Funkstorung, none of this would sound out of place on a Schematic Music Company compilation. Very recommended. Thank you for your time.


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