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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

Blevin Blectum, "Magic Maple"


Praemedia
I'm quite sure a devilish tailor is making its way through my eardrums every time I put this record on. It's not that there's anything evil about this record; but every instance of sound is a rapidly moving panorama of subconscious and dream-like sounds accelerated through time and set to explode upon aural reception. Blevin Blectum's newest record plays like a billion ping pong balls shot into a room about three inches wide and tall. The result is a barrage of micro-sounds that weave themselves together to make patterns of pseudo-melody and hushed excursions into the clouded heart of glass machines. At times Magic Maple is propelled by a turbine engine bent on choking some kind of rhythm out of the random chaos of sounds assembled into each song and at other times it's a playful cascade of rushing sounds, skipping semi-percussion, time-distorted bits of radio interference, various vocal samples, and unknown instruments bent and snapped into unrecognizable alien keyboards. Blectum's songs never fall into any recognizable format nor do they rely on any one technique; each song plays like a small portion of something greater that, if it could all be heard at once, would reveal some grand, majestic schematic that can only be hinted at when received through typical, human ears. What's more, Blectum's chaos is catchy: at times a xylophone or inter-dimensional steel drum fades in and out of the mix to reveal bits of repeated melody and mutant rhythms that never quite find their own pace. It's an addicting kind of music because it doesn't look to typical song structures to make it enjoyable, but it also doesn't go overboard and exist somewhere on the edge of sonic tolerance and pure experimental recording. It's almost pointless to talk about these songs individually; most of the time I can't tell where one song ends and the next begins. Everything fits together perfectly, but the whole album modulates within itself and never gets boring or frustrating in all its bouncing glory. The end of the album, however, is particularly outstanding and there are moments when just the smallest changes made by Blectum are breathtaking. Of course, these moments don't last long because she just never bothers to sit still.

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