Review of Stella Epoca [12k1097]

African Paper (DE)

The Japanese artist Sawako, who describes herself as a sound sculptor and signal alchemist, has become quiet in recent years, at least as far as publications are concerned. Eight years have passed since the musician produced “”, a gently enveloping score full of smothering ambient music for an exploration of the mysteries of the night, which knew how to gently lull its audience to sleep.

In a certain way, Sawako has remained true to her atmospheric approaches, because on the recently released “Stella Epoca” she once again cultivates this strangely dreamy and yet never soporific style. If was a work whose impulse-giving ideas were dedicated to the time, in “Stella Epoca” time and space together form the setting of the music: the universe with its interstellar expanses and the idea of ​​a new age shaped by the stars are the According to the artist, the most important cornerstones of her new material, and the label says “The ideas of sky maps and planetary frequencies were the inspirations behind Sawako’s dreamlike sounds”. There are hints of astronomy and astrology in these descriptions, and both go very well with the mood pictures in the tracks, which seem like miniature episodes within a larger whole.

However, the gently fragile, form-dissolving of their earlier soundscapes also characterizes their new material and can already be found in the first minutes of the album. A ritualistic metallic handling, which could come from a clinking chain or a bag full of glitter balls, is quickly enveloped in the first of the 14 mostly compact tracks by the softly dreamy melody of a piano and the subtle touch of ambient electronics. “Eclipse Dawn” could build up to a symphonic rock song, but the track is far too relaxed and frugal for that. This piece already gives an idea of ​​what Sawako means by mixing “animistic technology and digital nostalgia” in her social media appearances, because here not only analogue and digital are combined, but also archaic-primordial and creatively used modern technology .

It is usually this dream-like envelopment that encompasses the variety of emerging details in the music and often only reveals their multiformity on closer listening: the glow and glitter in the noisy “Space Drive”, in which Sawako’s voice echoes from a far-off world blows over the backwards flickering sounds in the aptly titled “Dream Float” and its slightly rougher counterparts in “Fennel Tunnel”; the undefinably aquatic field recordings in front of the jazz piano in “Night Leaf”; the rumbling scurrying made from a wistful music box tune into the detail of a childish fairy tale world in “Soranikaeru”; even the high-pitched vocals that seem to ring in a loop orgy in “Sky Rebirth”, but then unfold quite organically and are enveloped in bright noise; or the reversed melancholy in the almost acoustic jazz ballad “Tiny Conjunction”.

This music reveals its sheer monumentality only at select moments, such as in “Sol Soil,” where a siren-like alarmism of scraped tones reminiscent of an amplified cello make for some of the album’s grittiest moments—a track that finds its subtle reverberation in “Fertile Emptiness” gets. Here, in the suggestive drone and glow, more and more bright and glittering details unfold and one almost thinks one is witnessing a small cosmogony. Something new is born and everything seems to fit beautifully.

Perhaps it is only the “cosmic” titles and self-descriptions, alluding to turning points in time, that have gained their own momentum from these associations. When in the concluding “Field Memory” small, folk-heavy sounds, which could have escaped an Ursula K. Le Guin story, meet gentle bird calls, one certainly does not get the impression that someone like Blaise Pascal was doing the “eternal[n] Silence of these infinite spaces” shudders. (US)

View Website View Release