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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

Voks, "Vaks Vanskab Ak"
Dekorder
For the second Dekorder release, Denmark's Voks delivers a 3" that lacks Un Caddie's adventurous sound-grabbing, but is no less colorful. With former releases including a spot on Goodiepal's V/VM 7" series, Voks makes intensely na?ve computer music, revealing an obsession for toy instrument sounds and dawdling, childlike rhythms. These songs are not playful in the punky, campy style of artists like DAT Politics or the oddball fringe of the Sonig label; instead, Vaks Vanskab Ak is more of a mood piece, despite its more flamboyant qualities. Tracks reject dominant melodic roles; rather, sounds scatter in loose compliment of each other, haphazardly forming recognizable motifs, like the loose Middle Eastern feel that invades songs like "Hottenslot" and "Tuuie." The disc acts like a scatterbrained attempt at scoring an absurdist's animated short, full of swift mood swings but with enough open space to imply corresponding action or visual reference. Vaks Vanskab Ak would make a perfect backdrop for the bizarre puppet show pictured on its cover in which skeletal figures ride elephants and giant chickens, though I'd warn against extending its 20-min. length. Voks shows a charming command over his arsenal of tinkering toys and popping synth sounds, but a move to larger format will require a further consolidating of ideas and perhaps some NyQuil for the manic inner child who gets carried away ad nauseam on a few of these.

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