Somnambule - Writing About Music

Minamo ~ Beautiful

‘yarn’ introduces a warm, lambent hum, subtle speckle of glitches, pensive high pitched screech, delicate guitar notes and gradually something else that feels like the wind feels on your ears when you’re being buffeted on an exposed mountain top. The screech modulates into the sound of thousands of marbles clattering against each other at high speed. The listener sits at a moving point triangulated between these elements.

‘asa’ begins with a repeating synthetic loop, meditative guitar notes and a sound that might be marshlife, frogs genetically melded with crickets. As an act of concentration the ear hears these parts together, at other times separately. The synthetic element acts as counterpoint unbalancing or at least throwing into relief the more prosaically attractive guitar playing. It is as though one were innocently admiring a woodland scene dappled with sunlight until one realised that the trees were a little too uniform, the movement of a squirrel a little too regular.

The busy, accumulating kt, tt, tck of glitches at the beginning of ‘conceal’ - heard on vinyl signifying unwelcome scratches - remains painful in this different context imbued as it is with a sonic impact as though pitting the surface of a smooth object.

Until ‘appear’ the relationship between acoustic and electronic activity might be compared to two streams running parallel and close by each other encountering the same gradients, but each flow continuing unaffected by the other (though the dappled reflection of light combines in a single view). On ‘appear’ the guitar becomes infected by creeping treatments, is broken up and agitated, becomes lost in warm screes and bubblings (as when plastic puckers under heat) and finally the sedate, beneficent tone of the guitar is twisted into something darker, threatened, unsure and crucially fades to reveal the unadulterated sedulous activity of the electronic backdrop.

‘sym’ appears without pause, warm tones restored but now underscored by an increased awareness of the teeming, crackling artifical life around it. What appears to be a violin or a bowed guitar signals a degree of struggling anxiety shadowed by massing thunderclouds.

‘clearing’ introduces a subtly new synthesis, a dialectic of both doubt and certainty. In its entirety this cd appears to delineate a concern about the relationship between the natural and the artificial, the impact of each upon the other. This relationship initially appears predominantly tranquil, but the more the music is listened to, the more the connection seems to be malleable, the result of the emphasis placed by the listener on each of the sonic elements. ‘Beautiful’ is revealed over time to be a tremendously subtle work, its title ambiguous and not entirely to be trusted.

Minamo are a quartet of Keiichi Sugimoto (guitar, computer), Yuichiro Iwashita (guitar), Namiko Sasamoto (keyboards, sax) and Tetsuro Yasunaga (computers, electronics).
Colin Buttimer
December 2003
Published by the BBC