Review of Lightscape [12k1101]

Musique Machine (.COM)

Those familiar with FourColor’s (aka Keiichi Sugimoto) work will be reminded of the richness of his unique mode of guitar processing on Lightscape, though a few surprises await, too. For one, the guitar as source material assumes more of a supporting role here, washed into streams of effects and white noise, in which it finally disappears altogether (more on that below).

Spread over eight tracks, Lightscape opens with the noisy “Bigram”, in which it seems all of the modes of processing are happening at once, presented in a jumble, so that we know what lies in store. This gives way to the more capacious musings of “Refracted”, in which Sugimoto’s guitar plucking takes over. The “pluck” as such is about all we get from the instrument, though it is rarely transformed into a percussive device. Instead, the attack of a simple pick is marshalled as a compositional element, structuring the dulcet and aptly named, “Slink into Gray.”
Lightscape’s longest piece, “Blur”, is also its center point, a position that Sugimoto uses to announce a kind of metamorphosis, rewinding the noises made previously with the use of reverse delays, as if erasing the mode of pluck-y attack that came before it. Then we get just the traces on the eponymously named track, followed by “Spur” (German for trace), until “Dawn” rears its washed-out head, making sure we’ve got the point: what lies ahead is not another step forward, but a move in reverse, taking all of the drama and tension with it. The album’s penultimate track, “Hazy Blue,” swallows a gentle pick attack into a hurdy-gurdy drone, eliminating any vestige of conflict or confrontation. “Dawn”, the last, haunting trace on Lightscape, is surely a harbinger of things to come, which may disappoint some who wish to be tied to the various afterlives of the guitar. Within an ambient and slow-moving mass, something entirely new and unexpected is produced, like a self-generating cloud that breathes alongside itself.
Those familiar with Sugimoto and 12K’s brand of processed guitar work will find lots to admire here, as will those with a certain temperament for soft ambient music. But be warned: Lightscape just might be the last time we hear Sugimoto’s guitar. For a while, at least.
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