Review of Shining [12k1031]

Musique Machine (.COM)

Two years after Beautiful, undoubtedly one of the best albums of 2003, improv quartet Minamo are back with Shining, for yet again a CD of unequalled magnificence.

Readers of musiquemachine should now be acquainted with Keiichi Sugimoto: Fonica, Fourcolor and Cubic Music, he is one of the artists I write most about (so browse our archive). Minamo, the project he founded with fellow improviser Tetsuro Yasunaga, is now releasing its fourth album. Together with keyboardist Namiko Sasamoto (she dropped the barely audible sax) and acoustic guitarist Yuichiro Iwashita, Yasunaga and Sugimoto decided to change a little bit the “formula” of their music.

There was nothing wrong with the said formula: everything I’ve heard by them is stunning, but I guess the musicians needed the project to evolve a little more, if only to make it more interesting for them.

The recording method is still the same: they record a live performance (improvised of course), and then edit it. Another thing that hasn’t changed is the oh so gentle aspect of the music. It’s very gradual, very soft, very soothing. There are crackles, glitches, there is feedback and even noise, but all these usually ear threatening sounds have found peace with themselves and are giving there heartily welcome to any willing listener.

On previous albums, the main instrument was guitar. More to the point, it was the only one you could distinctly hear, the other sources being processed and extended into long, calm drones. On Shining, it’s still the instrument of choice. However, a piano is on numerous occasions as much audible as the guitar parts. Overall, there are more traditional musical moments (real melodic themes) than before. It’s not that much of a departure-or at least it doesn’t sound like one: everything feels natural and those particular moments do not disturb, alter or threaten the timeless quality of music that seemed so well balanced that any change in the formula might endanger it and destroy one of the rare spaces of beauty we could hope to encounter.

Shining is one of the rare pieces of music about which I can safely say “this is timeless, this is music in its highest form, this is one the best things you are likely to hear this year or rather this lifetime”. 5/5

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