Thursday, 4 July 2013

Ryuichi Sakamoto - Three

Like his home country of Japan, Ryuichi Sakamoto can be categorised completely objectively under one word: pioneering. He's an old man now, but whilst many might associate age with being stuck in the past or unable to change, Sakamoto has led his career on exactly opposite principles. Born in 1952, he's lived a life that's found it's own chronological parallels in music. As a young boy learning piano, he became fascinated by Debussy. As a teenager, he found himself listening to The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, and later on - much to the disapproval of his classical teachers - electronic pioneers like Kraftwerk.

For each of these musical influences, there was at least one album. Leading a career on the fringes of the mainstream, he kept his artistic integrity with experimental electronic albums being made alongside his work on film scores and other grand orchestral callings, from award-winning films such as 'The Last Emperor' (Bertolucci, 1987) to pieces for the 1992 Barcelona Olympics.

However, whilst Sakamoto has proved to work within every bound of music possible, whether that be rock, ethnic, electronic or classical, he does so by no means in any particularly chronological order. Like any creative genius, he works on his own terms, doing what he wants when he sees fit, and of recent - as though in a sudden ironic fit of retrogression - this has seen a focus on acoustic arrangements. Enter stage left his latest release: 'Three'. 

Whilst returning to acoustic work after such a wide variety of genres may seem at first to be backwards, this is only partly true. The idea behind the album is indeed of doing things backwards - but in an entirely new way. Whilst touring with a trio around New York, Sakamoto played his older, more well known pieces alongside his newer creations. It was around this point that he realised that the done thing is to write an album and then tour it - despite the fact that the music matures on tour. In order to help the music adapt and change into it's best form, Sakamoto decided to record the album after the tour, as opposed to before: "Music that was made a hundred years ago could be played again today and it would change - it breathes."

The album is itself beautiful. Whilst many of Sakamoto's previous releases would focus on one theme or work at a time, Three manages to be ranging across this whilst remaining a step above a 'Best Of' album. His cherry-picked best works are placed along his fresh work, but as opposed to dusting off the old recordings or remastering them, they are re-imagined entirely, and change dramatically in the process. 'Tango' - originally an upbeat salsa tune, is stripped of it's drums and vocals for the trio, and becomes a much more atmospheric theme one might play if you found yourself in possession of a satin boudoir and a fluffy white cat.

Just a glance at the cover gives an idea of the album itself - sleek and minimalist, like the finely tuned portfolio you can imagine Sakamoto handing to anyone who hadn't heard his work. Portfolio is a word which does not do it justice, but gives one an idea: Three is an album you would want to have on your coffee table, a complete and beautifully crafted idea - a satisfying takeaway box of Ryuichi Sakamoto.


Luciano Shaw

No comments:

Post a Comment