Put Hakobune (Japan’s Takahiro Yorifuji) and M. Sage (Fort Collins, CO’s Matthew Sage), two prolific heroes of the ambient underground, on the same cassette tape, and watch the ripples spread out from its point of entry into our lives: true heads in different time zones scramble to snag one of the 50 physical copies; laptops plug into AUX 1/8 inch cables and fill rooms on both sides of the Pacific with the Bandcamp stream; music writers grope through mental rolodexes of nature metaphors to appropriately encapsulate the tones pouring out of these guitars (“glistening flecks of morning dew,” “underwater cherry blossoms”). Yes, Yorifuji and Sage produce aural meditations so hushed and minimal, often so barely perceptible at low volumes, that figurative language may seem like the only means by which to discuss their output — but defaulting to an evocation of “the shards of light still left behind the clouds at sunset” cheapens the stunning level of detail each artist achieves in his ambient opuses.
Turn up your speakers and live inside these sounds for a while. As always, Hakobune turns in extended sessions of guitar drenched in enough delay and reverb to transform six strings into a heavenly would-be synth, cycling through slow harmonic passages that appear as afterthoughts to the ghost trails of notes plucked minutes before. Scope out the undulating spectrogram in the YouTube stream below and follow along as his tones blanket the stereophonic spread, filling the highs, lows, and mids with that signature Hakobune quaver of which I, for one, will never grow tired. M. Sage’s half of the split journeys into slightly more legible territory, led by hi-fidelity swells and yearning leads from his guitar, set above pulsing bass tones and a patina of lingering static. His three-part “Lashing Canyon” suite finds room for piano, lush synth work, even a tender banjo interlude, each voice laying its grain into the delicate atmosphere before splintering into the washed-out ecstasy of the climax in “Pt. 3.”
As I write this now, copies of the Hakobune / M. Sage split are still available from Sage’s own label, Patient Sounds — though there’s no telling what’ll happen by the time this piece runs (copies will also probably show up at Meditations soon). If you miss the tangible object, you can always find solace in the disembodied eternity of the digital.