titles of these two discs suggest a stronger contrast than their music actually
provides. Both CDs collect spare, hushed etudes by Ryuichi Sakamoto, a veteran
Japanese art-rocker best known in the West as a film composer; the distinction
is that Playing the Piano is all
keyboards, while bonus disc Out of Noise adds a few other instruments and some moderately rowdy drones and samples.
set reveals the influence of American minimalism, French impressionism and
piano-bar jazz; the slower, hazier Noise sometimes burbles toward Eno’s ambient music. Piano features reworkings of Sakamoto’s themes from such movies as The Last Emperor, as well as the vivid,
insistent “Thousand Knives.” The more adventuresome Noise includes the lovely, strings-only
“Hwit” and the sweetly spooky “In the Red,” which resembles
a blissed-out take on Steve Reich’s apocalyptic “It’s Gonna Rain.”
buffs may gravitate to the first disc, but this is one instance where the bonus
CD is the main attraction.
DOWNLOAD: “Thousand Knives,”
“In the Red” MARK JENKINS