Review of Letter Of Sounds [12k1038]

Lost At Sea (UK)

For some reason, minimalist electronica has become shrouded in theoretical discourse. These days, trying to seek out a review free of talk of digital processes, software and the sort of jargon that must isolate as many as it embraces can sometimes be easier said than done, and to its newcomers the genre can come across as off-putting and impenetrable. Quite fittingly then, it’s a breath of fresh air when an artist like Keiichi Sugimoto resurfaces to add scope to it.

Sugimoto has been churning out delicate drones under the Fourcolor moniker since 1998, in between stints as part of Minamo, an electro-acoustic quartet also working with 12k. While Fourcolor sits comfortably with the rest of the 12k roster, it represents the label’s most perceptible nod towards pop? a suggestion that has been accentuated with the arrival of Letter Of Sounds. The most striking feature of Sugimoto’s latest batch of tracks is their incorporation of beats. We’re not talking Prefuse 73 here – a Fourcolor beat is microscopic, consisting of little more than clicks and skitters – but beats nonetheless.

Though still miles away from bass-driven, “02” and “Fountain” fit more comfortably with the commonly-assumed concept of a “song” than the past Fourcolor themes ever did. That said, the crystalline, astutely precise elements of Air Curtain, released in 2004, remain, but in souped-up form: here, Sugimoto leaves little to chance – he has fastened his dreamy scapes into tight rhythms that skip between breaks, expanding his palate and making it more inviting on the whole.

If half of Letter Of Sounds’ triumph can be attributed to its accessibility, the other half would be to its sheer simplicity. The signature Fourcolor production is remarkably spacious, and doesn’t allow the gentle washes of sound to get bogged down with superfluous instrumentation or endless loops. Sugimoto doesn’t allow space for that which he deems unnecessary, and his tracks are the better for it.

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