Monty Adkins – Four Shibusa

Four Shibusa

When I first read the title of Monty Adkins latest album, Four Shibusa”, I imagined a Shibusa  would probably be some kind of exotic Japanese wind instrument.

I was wrong: it turns out ‘Shibusa’ is a japanese concept ‘describing the inherent simplicity and beauty in everyday objects’.

(Shibusa) “refers to a particular aesthetic of simple, subtle, and unobtrusive beauty, and can apply to a wide variety of subjects, not just art or fashion”.

  • Shibui objects appear to be simple overall but they include subtle details, such as textures, that balance simplicity with complexity.
  • This balance of simplicity and complexity ensures that one does not tire of a shibui object but constantly finds new meanings and enriched beauty that cause its aesthetic value to grow over the years.
  • Shibui objects are not necessarily imperfect or asymmetrical, though they can include these qualities.
  • Shibusa walks a fine line between contrasting aesthetic concepts such as elegant and rough or spontaneous and restrained.

(Wikipedia – Shibui)

This description strikingly seems to apply to what most ‘ambient’ music tries to achieve…so there’s a good start for further investigation!

My ‘wind instrument’ guess wasn’t very far beyond the truth: the album opens with a strikingly beautiful clarinet duet, performed by Jonathan Sage and Heather Roche.

The moment they start playing, it feels as if the surrounding world fades to the background, creating the right environment for the listener to focus on ‘the beauty of everyday objects’.

It takes a while before Adkin’s electronic details subtly start to shadow the clarinet parts. But his electronic details never seem to take over centre stage: they seem to be just there to support the haunting clarinet parts. And the Shibusa concept.

“More recently Monty Adkins’ work has become increasingly minimal and introspective. this work focuses on encouraging a deeper immersive listening experience. working with a reduced sonic palette the new works draw together elements from ambient, minimal electronica, acousmatic (sound one hears without seeing an originating cause) and experimental electronic music.”

The description of Shibusa perfectly matches the four tracks on this album, remaining true to this concept from the first to the very last note. Subtle details, balancing simplicity with complexity, sounds you never tire of listening to….Four Shibusa presents a perfect match of form and content.

I hate to use this reviewer’s cliché, but this is definitely one of the most beautiful albums I’ve have heard in a long time!


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