Ryuichi Sakamoto + Taylor Deupree: Disappearance (12k)
Ryuichi Sakamoto has a reputation that precedes him. His time in Yellow Magic Orchestra alone makes him one of the most iconic Japanese figures in electronic music, but his repertoire is quite expansive beyond that. He’s scored films by Almodóvar, Bertolucci, Stone, and more, and has collaborated with numerous reputable artists including David Sylvian and Akiko Yano (to whom he was married for some time). Taylor Deupree may not boast as long a resume, but his reputation is impressive in its own right. After putting in time in techno outfit Prototype 909, Deupree shifted focus and started the 12k label around the turn of the century. The label’s focus has shifted from exploring the more severe, outer limits of electronic glitch music into something more organic and ambient in nature. That Sakamoto and Deupree are only just now recording an album together is surprising, because they seem like such a natural match. Sakamoto has collaborated with the 12k camp in the past, though; he has albums with Fennesz and Alva Noto (Carsten Nicolai) under his belt already. So it’s interesting to hear Sakamoto’s piano improvisations juxtaposed against Deupree’s more recent airy, organic aesthetic of ambience. In sharp contrast to the digital cut-ups of Alva Noto’s collaborations, here each talent’s work intertwines less obviously with the other’s. Sakamoto’s piano ranges from introspective pianissimo improvisations to more timbral experiments with the guts of the instrument; its strings are scraped, tapped, plucked, and otherwise tinkered with to create less typical sounds. It’s some of Sakamoto’s most stark performances I’ve heard, a healthy complement to the analogue drones and found objects that Deupree contributes. The press release for Disappearance claims that the albums themes are “isolation, solitude, contemplation.” And in that, it is successful, although this is hardly placid listening. In contrast to the Sakamoto’s delicate ivories, there are plenty of taut drones and unexpected details; “This Window,” for instance, has some object recordings in it that actually made me do a double-take when listening. On “Curl To Me,” the album’s closer, the duo collaborate with up and coming Japanese singer/songwriter Ichiko Aoba. I have to admit that I was nonplussed at first to hear a human voice intruding in the serene isolation of their sounds, but she contributes not only an extra layer of fragility in her soft vocalizations but also her heartbeat, a strangely effective addition. It’s another sterling entry in the quality-controlled repertoires of 12k and both artists involved.