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Yann Novak * Noto/Sakamoto * Tonaliens

Yann Novak

Yann Novak


Before listening to this new Yann Novak album – his second title for Touch -, it’s good to reflect a bit on its somewhat enigmatic title.

The Future Is A Forward Escape Into The Past considers the relationships between memory, time and context. […] The album’s conceptual roots stem from ‘The Archaic Revival‘ by American ethnobotanist and psychonaut Terence McKenna. In it, McKenna theorizes that when a culture becomes dysfunctional it attempts to revert back to a saner moment in its own history. The text’s idealism was influential to Novak in the ‘90s, but today the theory bears a darkly-veiled resemblance to the rise of nostalgia-driven nationalism. […] McKenna’s idea highlights our propensity for selective memory, seeing history through the lens of memory instead of fact.

The impact of Novak’s music is coloured by the context of this philosophical background. The overall atmosphere in these four parts (the album is best played in one continuous sequence) is dark and sombre – which may very well be my own personal association with ‘the rise of nostalgia-driven nationalism’.
But at the same time you can listen in a completely different way, realising that Novak “looks back at his own older works though this (McKenna’s) lens as inspiration”.
Or, if you prefer, you can have your own associations with these timeless deep drone tracks combining sub-bass with subtly detailed distorted effects and some distant fieldrecordings – a sound that seems to originate from an immeasurable vast space too big to comprehend.

“The album is a study in perception and alteration, manipulation and awareness, effectively capturing Novak’s command of emotional texturing.

Noto - Sakamoto - Glass


Ryuichi Sakamoto‘s 2017 album Async got well-deserved raving reviews – it recently got a follow-up release Async – Remodels with reworks of the tracks by giants like Oneohtrix Point Never, Alva Noto, Fennesz, Johann Johannsson, Yves Tumor, Andy Stott and the likes. And there’s also the ASync International Short Film Competition, of which the winners will be included in the forthcoming BluRay edition of the album (most of them they can be viewed online already by the way).
But these are not the albums I want to present now: they’ll surely find their way to an interested audience easily.

With its single 37 minute drone-based soundscape, Glass is quite a different project. It’s the next in a series of Sakamoto/Noto collaborations that included the soundtrack of The Revenant, Summvs, and before that utp_, Insen and Vroon.

Glass is a recording of a live improvisation performance at the architect Philip Johnson’s Glass House, in New Canaan, Connecticut, a remarkable ‘pavilion for viewing the surrounding landscape’ and a perfect setting for a slow-paced soundscape like this. The ground plan of this pavilion is used as the album cover image, which gives an idea of its beautiful spaciousness.
Using contact mics they incorporated the glass house as an instrument along with other kinds of (mostly glass-related) instruments, capturing its original intention in sound. Though the changes are gradual there’s actually a lot happening in the recording.
There are many different kinds of sounds – organic, synthetic, electronic, acoustic – but each particle finds its own place in its surrounding environment.
Even if that environment is different from the Glass House it was originally created for.

(Below is a short sample fragment from the audio recording but I strongly recommend watching the 26-minute video of the performance to get an impression of the beauty of this piece).

Alva Noto and Ryuichi Sakamoto – site specific performance at the Glass House

Ryuichi Sakamoto/Alva Noto – Glass (preview sample)



This Berlin-bases group was formed in 2014, after the release of the Hayward Tuning Vine, “an interface for exploring microtonal tuning that allows for direct and intuitive interaction with the pitches normally hidden between the keys of the piano”. Or, in other words, the group investigate “the inner dimensions and outer limits of Just Intonation.”

For the uninitiated (like myself) that may sound as complex as it is. But as a listener we don’t need to truly understand the theory behind it to enjoy the musical result (or not to enjoy it, of course). We have our ears. And there definitely is a lot to be enjoyed on this release.

Tonaliens are Hilary Jeffery (trombone), Robin Hayward (microtonal tuba), Werner Durand (invented wind instruments), Ralf Meinz (live sound, electronics) and Amelia Cuni (voice on Vesta).

Vesta and Pallas are two long-form drone pieces, divided in four parts because of the release format: vinyl. I personally think that a release on CD or digital would’ve better suited music like this because the music can be played uninterrupted, but it’s a policy of the Edition Telemark label to release all their titles on vinyl only.

Both performances are recorded live in 2015: Vesta in Amsterdam during that year’s Sonic Acts festival, and Pallas in a somewhat smaller setting for the Labor Sonor series in Berlin. Amelia Cuni only performs on Vesta, her voice somewhat reminiscing an Indian raga performance. Pallas is fully instrumental.

The music and chord explorations are a fascinating interplay of acoustics and electronics. With the kind of timelessness that is induced by the prolonged chords it is easy to see why Hilary Jeffery referred to the Tuning Vine as a spaceship, and the Tonaliens as “explorers of parallel harmonic universes that have remained largely obscured for so long.”

How to end a performance that explores the spaces where time seems absent? Just a long fade, perhaps, to illustrate that the sound could go on for an indefinite time? Not this time… Surprisingly something strange seems to happen in the last minutes of Pallas: it’s as if one of the performers suddenly loses concentration and control over his instrument, and so the performance comes to an end. Somehow, it’s a funny kind of relief: the Tonaliens appear to be human beings after all.

TONALIENS – VESTA (fragments)

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Sakamoto-Illuha-Deupree; Chihei Hatakeyama; Lauki; Sonmi451; Roach-Metcalf-Thomas



When you listen to this improvised set for piano, guitar, pump organ and synthesizer, it is hard to believe that these four musicians never played together before.
Ryuichi Sakamoto, Taylor Deupree and Illuha (Corey Fuller and Tomoyoshi Dale) only met each other just a couple of days earlier, on the occasion of Ryuichi Sakamoto’s “Forest Symphony” installation celebrating the 10 year anniversary of the Yamaguchi Center for Arts and Media.
“‘Perpetual‘ is presented in three movements that traverse from soft layers of synthesizer and processed guitar, to open, airy sections of prepared piano and silence, to finally coming to rest in a most hauntingly delicate lullaby of lonely piano, crackling found objects and field recordings and tones suspended like mists.”

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If there is one musician capable of creating an aural equivalent of mist, it must be Chihei Hatakeyama.
The music on “Mist” – “inspired from such beauty of fog-like phenomena which reflexts the thin light to fine mist” – has the same comforting isolation a thick layer of mist surrounding you can sometimes have. 
The album’s closing track, “Nangoku” was originally created for a 24 channel PA system installation for extra immersion. But for those without a 24-channel home sound system, the stereo version on this album also does a great job!


Lauki - Thaw

(Mikel) Lauki is probably a familiar name due to his collaborations with Pleq.
“Waiting for the Thaw” is his third solo album (the first two ( 69º54´S​​-​​135º12´E and GEA ) are available in digital format only).
It’s not only perfectly titled for the time of year – the end of winter- , but it’s also an album where Lauki’s ‘weakness for contemporary classic music, generative art and the aesthetics of the digital error’ blend perfectly into a perfect soundtrack.
The music is inspired by the classic Mauritz Stiller film Herr Arnes Pengar” (“Sir Arne’s Treasure”, 1919), a Nordic tragedy in which “the frozen atmosphere that envelopes the plot, the scandinavian winter, gets its own role.”
That is not just true for the movie but definitely for the soundtrack too!

Limbic System

The 50th release on the Time Released Sound label is a new one from Sonmi451, a.k.a. Bernard Zwijzen.
The limbic system is a complex collection of brain structures, “supporting a variety of functions including adrenaline flow, emotion, behavior, motivation, long-term memory, and olfaction (sense of smell).” On this particular set, the overall emotion are calm, friendly and warm – ‘a melodic and crystalline set of electronically treated ambiance’.
And with an omnipresent soft japanese female whisper.
As with most TRS releases, “The Limbic System” comes in two limited editions: the deluxe “Case File” edition (70 copies) and the standard version (150 copies).


Monuments of Exstasy

Combine the synth layers of Steve Roach with the frame, shaman and bass drums of Byron Metcalf and the didgeridoo and percussion of Rob Thomas, and the result is a hypnotic ‘tribal ambient’ set that is indééd an impressive  ‘monument of ecstasy’!
“Byron’s drums and percussion fuse with Steve’s hybrid grooves, array of analog modular, virtual analog synths and mixing enhancements; Rob’s serpentine didgeridoo weaves aboriginal textures and otherworldly voices, adding ancient layers to the trio’s flows and soundscapes.”

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