Friday, January 23, 2009

Ryuichi Sakamoto

I've been listening to a CD by an electronic, ambient, found-sound, whatever, kind of artist, Ryuichi Sakamoto, called Soundbytes.

This is someone I had never heard of before, but, as always, when looking him up on the internet, I discover that he's already quite well known. All these artists are well known if you check with the right circles. For me, never being in the right circles, you have to be pretty famous for me to know you, or, like Ryuichi, to have your CD in Goodwill and to have it look sufficiently appealing for me to buy it. Sometimes I'm in the mood for something different, sometimes I'm not. In this case, I was, and I liked the sounds of the titles, the artwork, etc., making me take a chance on it. I'm glad I did.

When I say "I've been listening" to it, I mean I heard a few tracks last night and I heard a few tracks this morning. It's actually something pretty good for my state of mind in the morning, which is to be contemplative yet willing to be iconoclastic. I like a good drone, really I do, or anything more typically contemplative. But I also like things that go stranger, more unpredictable directions, sometimes. Today was one of those days, where I'm willing to branch out and engage different thoughts.

The liner notes compare Ryuichi to Brian Eno and Kraftwerk, two that I'm familiar with, but I'm rarely concentrated on any one individual or act so that I'm an expert or afficiando. I'm always more general than that. I've had an album or two or three by each of them.

But, whatever, I've heard once now the first eight tracks. They have an interesting, quirky electronic sound, a found sound kind of feel, yet with a lot of thought behind each one. In a way, they sound like something you'd imagine, then simply do, and let the feel along the way determine where it's going to go.

I looked up this album and believe they gave it only 3 stars at All Music. For whatever reason. But it's not really an album (as one work) but a compilation of tracks off several albums. So it's, to me, a good sense of Ryuichi's solo work from those albums, and whether it's 3 stars or 1, that doesn't make any difference. If you want to sample several things at once, this is a good CD, just going by the first eight songs.

One of the songs, I think it's "Variety Show" has a voice synthesizer in it that sounds precisely like one I downloaded between 1996-1998. The one I had then was downloaded from a source in Hawaii, and worked like this, you typed in your words, not according to actual spelling but according to the way it was likely to be produced, then a monotone guy spoke it. I have a soundfile of an example of this somewhere. But Ryuichi has a longer series of words, like paragraphs, typed in and coordinated it with music.

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