issue 20 :: September 2011

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Review: Koji Asano

Galaxies CD [Solstice]
Solstice Eclipse CD [Solstice]

The polyvalent Asano works in multiple forms, presenting music through solo laptop performances or composing for Western chamber ensembles. Highly prolific, his work appears on over forty CDs, mostly released on his own label Solstice. The single long track on Galaxies sounds like an unedited field recording made at the locus of a city and forest environment. We hear traffic sounds, we hear insect and bird sounds, we hear some far away voices, we hear what could be the white noise wash of rushing water or surf. This gibes with the cover photo, a tiny outpost of plant matter shooting up amongst stones (crumbled pavement?). We are given no information as to where this recording was made, or why. Galaxies... are we to think of tiny islands of life can that exist within the vast dead, urban landscape? As opposed to finding the ever increasingly rare spot that is free from traffic noises, Asano doesn't try to mask the automotive rumble and roar. This may become a curiosity in a future to be dominated by silent, electric cars. Was this recorded in one spot, or, as Asano seems to be a tireless traveler around the world, is each layer of noise recorded at a different location, creating a field recording of a meta-field that doesn't exist save for when this record is played?
Solstice Eclipse is an altogether different recording, but again we are given no information as to the whats or whys of its making. Again a singular long track, this time drony electronic noises, perhaps processed chamber instruments or a synthesizer set to string samples. But listening closely to the sounds provides no obvious answers. The various tones of the source instruments float and weave as if each voice was tied to the up and down motion of waves. The music is constantly in flux, but in repeating loops, so that the music creates the impression of stasis. The music appears to be surrounded by a slight haze of static, perhaps from the source material being drawn from cassettes or old LPs, or maybe being recorded from a distance, and the ambient noise is inadvertently amplified. And what are we to make of the cover photo, of cranes at a shipping yard? Could these have been involved in the piece's making? More enigmas for our ears.
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