In this collaboration between Sakamoto and Alva Noto
(aka Carston Nicolai) it is very easy to see why it was voted
2004's electronica record of the year by The Wire. Ryuichi Sakamoto
is an acclaimed composer for both orchestra and film who has an Oscar,
a Grammy, and a Golden Globe under his belt for his composition of
the music in the film, "The Last Emperor". Knowing this,
it is even more impressive that a composer of this caliber would extend
his talent to the realm of electronica to come up with this outstanding
album. Carston Nicolai, a noted electronic composer and visual artist,
brought his expertise in the way of post production and interpretation
of Sakamoto's music. With the collaboration of the two musicians,
a most excellent ambient album resulted.
The album Insen is one of the more hauntingly beautiful compositions
that I have heard in quite some time. Sakamoto, with his slow and
deliberate piano, mixed with the beats and digital sounds of Nicolai,
creates an incredibly complex album from the simplicity of the music
which has been composed. The music is incredibly well written with
a great mixture of discord and harmony, complexity and simplicity.
The main theme that I was able to extract from this album is that
of balance through opposition. The album is along the same vein as
some of the works of Brian Eno, considered by many to be the
father of ambient. Eno claimed that ambient music can be either "actively
listened to or as easily ignored depending on the choice of the listener",
which this album expertly proves.
This album, which likely could be confused with one in the new-age
genre, tends to break the boundaries of the category and morph into
a mixture of organic ambient and dark ambient in the electronica genre.
There is no shortage of un-dampened piano chords played by Sakamoto,
such that there is a memory of the previous chords in each following
chord. The digital beats and experimental sounds, created by Nicolai,
in many instances can be confused for the sounds created by a vinyl
recording listened to on an older record player. In other cases the
digital portion of the track takes over as the melody or harmony to
supplement the lone piano.
"Aurora" and "Morning" open up the album with
the first being a more melodic song with more of an emphasis on the
piano. The second is more dissonant and dark with clashing chords
and a constant, yet soft, driving beat. "Logic Moon" almost
sounds like the CD is skipping, yet this phenomenon is integrated
into the song perfectly to add another tier of originality to an already
strong album. "Moon" brings in a new element of digital
post-production which in some cases makes it sound like chords are
being played in reverse. In "Berlin" there seems to be an
undertone of dissonance which is balanced by the melody played on
the acoustic piano. "Avaol" is a track entirely made up
of what would seem like background noise, or a recording whose levels
were too low while being recorded. There are no melodies, but a calming,
almost wind-like, sound creeps from the speakers accompanied by an
almost non-existent beat.
If you love calming ambient or even downtempo electronica this
is a must-hear album. It is complex enough for the most discerning
listener, yet still enjoyable for the casual taste.
3) Logic Moon
Check out more
Like this article?
e-mail it to