Ryuichi Sakamoto async - remodels

[Milan; 2018 ]

Styles: ambient
Others: Solaris, Mirror, Stalker

n.b. For months, I thought Ryuichi Sakamoto had died and that his masterwork async was the composer’s Dead Letter to no one sent from nowhere. “Diagnosed with cancer,” I read, still reeling from those other great love letters to life sung by those with leaden lids. I had read of his sickness, but before reading the entire story — that he overcame his sickness — the sounds substantiated my misbelief. Surely only someone peering past life’s precipice could have whispered what they saw there. My mistake: only someone who returned from death could elide the rupture in what is a-sync, could heal the death inside us, our broken time. Now that I know he lives, I choose to believe in his death, for, dare I say it, what is death but our naiveté in dying? To me, Sakamoto has survived his death.

Time is out of joint;

An inheritance is a mourning. It is never a given, always a task. To be an heir is not to have nor to receive from, but first of all to be and to bear witness to the inheritance that one is. Before wanting or refusing to be — before, if you will, to be or not to be — one is already riveted. The anxiety of the choice is the mourning for what one is but cannot be — cannot but be — cannot but let go of.

Think, for instance, of those moments where you stare into space without looking at anything in particular. You are entirely aware that you could look away at any instant, but curiously, you don’t. What is this lagging behind oneself? (I write this, drifting in and out of this stare and sleep, journeying on a train into the night.) There is an irreducible gap between who you already are and the strength required for the task of being it, of constituting it as real. This gap is of the temporal order. The present is not an evanescent quantity of flow; it is a fracture, a rupture. The dead know this well. Sleepwalkers know it also, as well as trapeze artists. But those who have survived it can hold the gap inside them, whole.

O cursed spite,
That ever I was born to set it right!

Each song on async weaves together a wound in time at once demarcating the space in which to hear it while also necessitating a horizon of its closure, a healing. It is this feeling of pain as a rupture in time that makes async - remodels so hard to review. It seems all too simple (but also dreadfully sincere) to transpose pain into what is already ease, order, relief, as if what one was remodeling were already complete. It seems all too innocent to inherit articles of a testament without testifying or bearing witness to the rupture in time between giver, gift, and heir.

Hear how the hamper pedal in “andata” is itself a sound. Hear how the sound that sustains becomes the sound of sustain, as the piano melody bleeds into the organ. Yet, in Oneohtrix Point Never’s remodel of this post-mortem Bach cantata, resonance is a hesitation, a wavering that subsides into a new theme.

Hear how the disjointed articulation of plinks and staccato chimes of an unprepared piano in “disintegration” always find reference to temporal stability, reminding us that however hard we attempt to detach melodies from phrase by distending them in time or condensing or distorting them with others, we always tie them together in one time or another. Disintegration’s impossibility becomes a relief only after it seems all time has been rent apart. In Alva Noto’s remodel, what was the horrifying dizziness of relativity without ground becomes the answer without problematizing the question.

Hear how the Bach F minor choral prelude is buried beneath the harmony in “solari.” Hear how it wavers, threatens to disappear. Yet, hear how the harmony that swells, seeps, spills over it is in parts merely this same melody at half speed. Yet neither the one nor the other are synchronized in reference to another organ hammering the beat. Fennesz’s remodel drops the prelude altogether, stuttering between the harmony and the accompaniment.

Each song weaves together a wound in time, and maybe my qualms with the remodels are precisely that: they are remodels not remedies. Each released single was a different shade and pattern of the same blueprint, abstracted one level from that which they model. And while these songs do feel like shades or shadows, each is inimitably their own. What more could an inheritance be than to be a shadow and claim it as your own?

Nay, come, let’s go together.

The best work on this album are the tracks whose ownness is also a togetherness. Those tracks — Andy Stott’s “Life, Life,” Yves Tumor’s “ZURE,” Jóhann Jóhannsson’s “solari1, and Arca’s “async” — sound like the merging of a gift given with a gift received.

Neither a remix nor a remodel, even less a tribute to an inspiration, these songs sound the same yearning breathed in different breaths. Embodying Arseny Tarkovsky’s words, “And this I dreamt, and this I dream / And some time this I will dream again / And all will be repeated,” these dreamers, sleepwalkers, and trapeze artists who receive with wonder the gift of iridescent wonder to which their art is a dedication, inhabit together that wound in time — between self and striving, between life and the death inside us, between the present and its dissolution — gazing at life from death’s vantage. And though only whispers return from that barren place, mere shards shorn from an infinity of mirrors, mere flecks of foam cast out from an infinity of waves, the dream lives in the wonder that remains when we awake transfigured into life, life lives in its wonder.


1. Although the title is “solari” not “solarus” — for death is a path down which we journey alone — as I’ve tried to intimate, this assemblage of artistry and inheritance opens up a space in death where hands are joined and life — which was, is, and will be — is shared. RIP Jóhann Jóhannsson.

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