Ryuichi Sakamoto: async Remodels

Nenad Georgievski By

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There is a legend about the vigorous dance of Shiva, the Hindu god of destruction and creative renewal. This endless and vigorous dance is called "Tandava," and with it Shiva destroys the world. With each new cycle, out of the scattered elements, a new world is reconstructed. This dance and act is the source of the cycle of creation, preservation, and dissolution. In a similar manner, what most remixers have been doing to songs or pieces of music can be described with Shiva's endless dance or the destruction of the elements that constitute a song and the reconstruction it into something new and different. Or as the great painter, Pablo Picasso has said: "Every act of creation is firstly an act of destruction. "

For the last 40 years, Japanese composer, producer Ryuichi Sakamoto has been captivating audiences with his varied and adventurous albums, projects and award-winning film scores. As one of the early pioneers of electronic music, starting with the legendary new wave glam group Yellow Magic Orchestra, and whose projects throughout his illustrious career were imbued with incredible diversity, riskiness and bold vision, the process of remixing came naturally to him. Async Remodels is not the first time his music has received the remix treatment, nor is the first time an album of his has been remixed. Years ago his symphonic masterpiece Discord was remixed by a cast of selected DJs.

Envisioned as a soundtrack to a non-existent Andrei Tarkovsky film, the album Async showcased his illimitable inventiveness. The music indicated his distinct and very personal, free-styled approach to sounds, moods, shapes and characters that he named as "async." With its flowing, ambient, immersive and sometimes dissonant nature, it blends multiple unusual sounds, colors and moods into abstract paintings full of distinct character. They are also characterized by expansive slowness that indicates rich inner landscapes. It's also an approach that runs parallel to some of his recent collaborations with the likes of Carsten Nicolai (aka Alva Noto), Christian Fennesz, Christopher Willits, and Taylor Deupree.

The minimal and unusual nature of these pieces proved to be a blessing when they were given to a special selection of a diverse cast of artists who re-worked, re-envisioned and re-shaped these pieces. These selected artists are musical gems and close collaborators with compatriots such as the previously mentioned Alva Noto and Christian Fennesz, close friends such as the renowned composer Johann Johannson and other top-shelf electronic artists. The act of remixing has almost always been associated with the dance club scene and its relentless dance beats for extended enjoyment on the dance floor. But the process of re-shaping has progressed dramatically as creative artists have taken the process much further, deeper and into more personal territories. More often than not remix albums are affairs designed to capitalize on a certain popular release by extending its commercial value for a certain period.

Async Remodels stands out not just for its depth but for its variety. Whether or not the music is familiar or is true to the nature of the original compositions doesn't really matter as much as what the interpreters do with it. The result is a diverse suite of tracks from which the music has been reconstructed with new arrangements and accompaniments, which in turn result in fully recognizable yet totally different pieces of music. "Andata" receives a double reading as (Daniel Lopatin's) Oneohtrix Point Never and the Canadian duo Electric Youth have each reworked this melodic piece that was originally inspired by Bach's music. Both approaches are opposite to each other where Oneohtrix Point Never's interpretation has retained the original piano melody, subtly embellished, with echoes and electronica sounds until it bursts in the middle and is garlanded with washes of electronic sounds as it slowly gets subdued. Its nature is full of contrasts with the soothing sounds of the piano and the kinetic electronic elements. Electric Youth's remix sounds as if it was done by electronic wizard William Orbit with its synthesized nature and poppy beats.

Alva Noto's remodel is a work of art—one highlights of the. Noto creates an aural drama by adding a pulsating plucked piano with distorted floating synth waves and reverbs. "solari" is another track that receives a double reading by two towering figures. Guitarist/laptopist Christian Fennesz's approach towards reworking of this track is by finding a melodic keyboard segment that is speeded up and keeps continuously repeating itself through various layers of ambiances, textures and electronic sounds. Also, renowned film composer Johann Johannson, who during the writing of this review suddenly passed away, takes a different approach and makes the final piece more minimal and muted as if it is coming from a distance. This distance adds depth to this work as out there in this song's horizons, various sounds and shapes can be heard much in the manner of Johannsen's fantastic Arrival soundtrack. It is very subtle, quiet and un-intrusive where the listener will have to pay very careful attention to everything that is happening. Both Fennesz and Johannson are known for the rich and otherworldly dense textures in their work and their remodeling is hypnotic.

Interestingly, this is not the first time Johannson has remixed the work of another great composer, as he has previously remixed a song by Philip Glass named "Protest" for the singer Beck's curated remix album Rework_Philip Glass Remixed.. This collection of specially curated remixes is one of the prime examples of how to assemble a special cast of artists to rework tricky music by a towering composer. Another artist who was also part of the artists assembled for the Glass Rework album and who lends his talent here is artist Keigo Oyamada, aka Cornelius, who reworks the track named "ZURE." Cornelius embraces a small melodic fragment that acts like a pulsing rhythmic anchor with the occasional clicks and chimes (and whispering breaks) that add ethereal qualities to this outstanding remodeling. It's certainly one of the highlights of this collection.

The resultant collection in most cases is consistent with the artists' own and Sakamoto's explorations. The Async Remodels represents one of those rare occasions when two dissimilar ingredients give rise to something unforeseeably strange and new. Obviously, this is music that wasn't harnessed for explicit pop aims. For the most part, the excellent source materials have been thoroughly transformed far beyond what usually passes for a remix. These are thoughtful reinterpretations where each remodel stands on its own.

Track Listing

Andata (Oneohtrix Point Never Rework); Andata (Electric Youth Remix) ; Disintegration (Alva Noto Remodel); Async (Arca Remix); Fullmoon (Motion Graphics Remix); Solari (Fennesz Remix); Solari (Jóhann Jóhannsson Rework); ZURE (Yves Tumor Obsession Edit); Fullmoon (S U R V I V E Version); ZURE (Cornelius Remix); Life, Life (Andy Stott Remodel).


Christian Fennesz, Alva Noto, Arca, Oneohtrix Point Never, Yves Tumor, Motion Graphic, Jóhann Jóhannsson, Cornelius.

Album information

Title: async Remodels | Year Released: 2018 | Record Label: Milan Records




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