Ever since the Tokyo-centric onkyo coalesced as a sound in the late 90s — or as a way of listening, as Taku Sugimoto describes it — it has had a connection with the Berlin-based, ‘non-national’ Wandelwieser Composer’s Ensemble. Although onkyo historically has concerned itself more with improvisation, both aesthetic (e.g., an understanding of silence) and methodological (e.g., self-imposed limitations) overlaps exist between the ‘collectives.’ Moreover, the two subgroups of experimental music have had an increasingly interactive relationship over the past decade, best exemplified by the releases of Radu Malfatti and Antoine Beuger (both Wandelwieser mainstays) compositions on Taku Sugimoto’s Slub imprint in the second half of the oughts.
But even with this heightened coexistence, little has approached how monumental this collaboration between composers Michael Pisaro and Taku Sugimoto is. These two gentlemen aided in both defining and charting the development of Wandelwieser and onkyo, respectively, each directly involved with some of the pinnacles of avant-garde music from the past two decades. On 2 seconds / b minor / wave, with a bit of help from Jon Abbey’s Erstwhile, every iota of expectations one might attach to a joining of these two composers is met.
This ‘meeting’ is a peculiar one: the three tracks on 2 seconds / b minor / wave were composed and recorded with the artists in near-isolation from each other, with Pisaro and Sugimoto only communicating to establish simple motifs for the three compositions. Pulse, pitch, and wave were the sole common points of departure, yet in each piece, the two sound so in harmony with one another. Sugimoto’s metronomes on “2 seconds” (pulse) are perfectly in sync with Pisaro’s electronic rhythms. Likewise, Pisaro’s electric guitar offers an otherworldly counterpoint to Sugimoto’s scaling acoustic guitar on “b minor” (pitch). The feedback of “wave” evokes titular images and a balance and serenity seldom found as affecting as in this piece. The synergy on 2 seconds / b minor / wave is incredulous, a tip of the hat to both the composing skills of these two and their understanding of one another’s aesthetics.
As with MIMEO & John Tilbury’s The Hands of Caravaggio, this divorced production might have been the headline if it weren’t for how gorgeous every sonority is on 2 seconds / b minor / wave. Each moment trickles into another, whether it be silence or a filled void. Pisaro and Sugimoto capture stillness herein, somehow even in the more dynamic phrases of “2 seconds”; movement seems insignificant and unadvised in comparison to their stationarity. The whole of this album, including Yuko Zama’s lovely art design, is an incredible testament to Michael Pisaro’s and Taku Sugimoto’s unique and utterly captivating approach to sound, and, in this writer’s opinion, no other release from 2010 is 2 seconds / b minor / wave’s equal.