It’s no exaggeration to say that my first hearing of this duo’s 2005 album Insen, and their concert at the Barbican, were transformative experiences for me. I’ve steered clear of their two subsequent releases, for fear that they would be disappointing (while developing a considerable awe of Carsten Nicolai’s other work, and Raster-Noton in general). But this time, I felt ready.
Within the first few seconds, something new is obvious: there is a wonkiness absent from the earlier work… everything is still very precise, but now sometimes it’s very precisely slurred. Sakamoto’s piano is as achingly perfect as every, its minimalism leaving you craving more. Nicolai has dialled down the glitches which dominated his contributions before, and instead has developed a knack for a subliminal throbbing tunefulness which counterpoints the delicate piano trills. The effect is awesome. My highlight is the eleven-minute Naono, in particular what we might call the second movement: a bassy hum plays a snippet of melody which is constantly resolving itself, a sequence which wouldn’t be out of place in the closing bars of a romantic symphony; this sense of coming home is challenged by persistently questioning piano flourishes, and punctuated by occasional Morse code blips… the timing is perfect, and the overall effect is of a combination of stasis and perpetual motion and I just don’t want it to stop.
I bought this from Boomkat. They call it Home Listening / Modern Classical / Ambient.