Ryuichi Sakamoto and Christian
Fennesz are the twin pillars of advanced music composition in the 21st century.
And the concept of these two coming
together in collaboration is akin to a dream tag team union of Karlheinz
Stockhausen and Philip Glass.
But the fact of the matter is
that unlike those aforementioned titans of experimental classical, Sakamoto and
Fennesz have worked together on and off since the 1990s, drawn to one another’s
abilities and affinities for melding modern classical composition with the
electronic sounds of techno, microhouse, synthpop, new wave, hip-hop and IDM.
Yet while the two men have performed concerts in tandem for nearly 20 years,
their recorded output up until now has been as sporadic as their sonic
methodology, boasting only a 2005 live EP called Sala Santa Cecilia and
a 2007 studio effort entitled Cendre.
However, the Fen-Sak duo make
up for their studio sparsity in spades with the release of their epic third
set, an expansive two-disc set entitled Flumina rooted in two dozen
improvisations for solo piano recorded by Sakamoto while on tour in his native
Japan. During these 24 dates, he played each piece in a different key until he
wound up covering all 24 steps of the Western Tonal Spectrum, which encompasses
an equal temperament of 12 major keys and 12 minor keys.
After the tour wrapped, the
former chief proponent of the pioneering late ‘70s electronic rock band Yellow
Magic Orchestra processed the pieces he recorded through his computer and sent
the tracks to his old friend Fennesz, who in turn extrapolated upon these piano
improvisations by augmenting them through the utilization of treated guitar
drones, laptop science and an
arsenal of synths. The pair then met up in New York, where they worked together on
mixing the double LP with the help of fellow composer and engineer Fernando
Aponte at KAB Studio.
What they ended up with nothing
short of a masterpiece of electro-acoustic ambience that builds upon Sakamoto’s
conceptual spin on the Western Tonal
Spectrum with a plaintive sense of futuristic calm tailor made for late nights
in the office and quiet mornings of meditation.
Flumina is an arresting
and beautiful work as deep and open as the body of water that graces its cover
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