Review of As Pleat [12k1065]

Brainwashed (US)

As a member of Minamo, Keiichi Sugimoto is no stranger to weaving tapestries of hushed sounds that are as familiar as they are alien. On this album he expands his approach to include more use of accidental rhythms and erratic jittering sounds, focusing not just on tones, but rhythms and textures as well.

While Sugimoto definitely utilizes a fair share of digital processing and treatments, it is mostly used so sparsely and carefully that it transforms the sound of the guitar, but never in a stereotypical way. For example, “Skating Azure” is based largely on a structure of traditional guitar sounds, but reshaped and molded in such a way that the result is almost a pop song, but one from an entirely different dimension. The lush textures and acoustic guitar fragments of “Frosted Mint” are the polar opposite of a stereotypically clinical sounding composition: the sound is unabashedly pleasant and has a summery warmth.

“Carmine Fall” and “Snow Petal” are texturally similar, but on a different emotional plane. The former errs a little more into the digital realm, never overly so, but coveys a greater sense of melancholy in its bassier tones. “Snow Petal” has a denser mix, a complex array of sounds with subtle plinking notes and the same sense of sadness.

“Bleach Black” is also a showcase for the greater focus on rhythm that Sugimoto emphasizes on this album. Under the rolling textures there’s a slew of digital sounds that don’t resemble rhythm in the most traditional sense, but serve the same purpose. In addition, errant buzzes appear that could almost be accidental interference, but work too well in the overall composition. The aforementioned “Snow Petal” uses a similar strategy, mixing clicks, pops and other forms of noise within the more structured sounds in a wonderful juxtaposition.

The two “Quiet Gray” tracks, which open and close the album are even more dramatic examples of this jerky rhythmic approach. Both feature heavy uses of erratic stop and start structures, seemingly at random, but the underlying analog soul is undeniable. “Quiet Gray 1” mixes the vocals of Sanae Yamasaki (Moskitoo) as an additional instrument, cut apart into wordless clouds of sound with shimmering guitar notes. “Quiet Gray 2” is more demanding, using heavier and less obvious sounds, but in the same kind of framework.

Although the sounds of guitar are sometimes unmistakable, Sugimoto often manipulates them into becoming an entirely different sound, but one that still manages to retain the soul of the instrument, even at times where it can’t be easily discerned. There’s just something about the warmth and variety of the textures here that is undeniable, making it a memorable and inviting disc.

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