Review of Hum [12k1035]

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Hum is her third album, and precedes Madoromi released recently. It is a more ambient record, with less structured compositions than on her next one, though it is clearly the link towards Madoromi. Sawako, coming from Japan and living in New York, creates music, she learns and evolves during the process and each of her seven works here is a success.

Sawako doesn’t use linear principles in order to build her music. There are instead different dimensions brought together creating evolving landscapes with narrative impressions left to the interpretation of the listener. It’s not pure soundscape ambient music and there are no strict “melodies”. It’s a pure work of composition following personal rules and exigencies. She uses field recordings, her voice, electronic sounds and the help of a few friends on one or another track (Taylor Deupree, Aoki Hayato and Kenneth Kirschner) playing guitars or piano. These are her ingredients and where the album starts and she succeeds in realizing it through digital manipulations, ending with something fragile, intimate, shy, open, loosened but precise and subtle in an emotional point of view.

Hum is soothing and at the same time refreshing, a perfect combination of subtlety and light ambiances, of depth, melancholy and innocence, open and inviting, like drifting in our thoughts, walking trough streets without destination in search of an hazy happiness.

“Pink Liquid Cotton Candy” is like walking in circles, dazzled and disoriented under bright morning sunlight. “Patchwork Blanket” starts with the gentle and requesting meowing of a young cat and is followed by beautiful layers of sound, sometimes vibrating, always warm and intimate, with varying levels, and a few piano rhodes notes falling beautifully along the way. It’s the most moving track of Hum.

As an opposite, “Rush” is cold, humid and dark, almost claustrophobic. Much more successful are “Incense Of Voice” and “Way Home From School”, contemplations of landscapes under a sea of fog with waves of varying transparencies, around June, between groves, lakes, clearings, hills and meadows, somewhere in heaven.

“White Sky Winter Chicada” is like spending hours in transportation, between destinations, lost in our thoughts, in some station, waiting for a train or looking at the landscape, through a window, too apathetic to read, too awake to take a nap.

With a length of 13 minutes, “Cloud No Crowd” is her longest track, during the first half, it’s more an ambient soundscape than a precise composition, different from the rest of the record. Like a diluted version of the Stars of the Lid, pictures of reflections of the sky in pools of water, waiting from the rain to stop, come to mind. On the second half she reverses sounds with a delicate hiss in the background and it’s strangely intimate, then a long drone starts like heavy rain and erases everything else, and we finally find a refuge and silence in some peaceful Japaneses temple and we’re back when “Cloud No Crowd” started.

An evocative album.

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