Review of As Pleat [12k1065]

Textura (CA)


Japan-based composer Keiichi Sugimoto (also part of the electro-acoustic quartet Minamo and electronica duo Fonica) returns with a new Fourcolor follow-up to his earlier Air Curtain (2004) and Letter of Sounds (2006) releases. As Pleat‘s occasionally splintered guitar-rooted soundscaping is electronically inflected and digitally treated yet nonetheless retains a warmth and humanity that makes it all the more engaging. In addition, the album explores multiple moods and spaces rather than fixating too much on a single one, as Sugimoto juxtaposes jittery pulsations and softer ambient flourishes in generating a texturally rich sound that’s uniquely his.

The album glides in on a cut-up wave of stuttering vocal and electronic filaments in “Quiet Gray 1” with Sugimoto’s delicate guitar filigrees and tactile electronic gestures augmented by vocal dollops of Sanae Yamasaki (aka Moskitoo). A ghost-like residue of echo imbues the musical and vocal elements that lend the piece a dream-like quality as it meanders searchingly, its various tendrils coming together in abstract yet nevertheless meaningful form. Repeating rhythm patterns lend “Skating Azure” a more linear structure, though here too an abstract dimension pervades the track’s flickering guitar fragments, thereby helping it elude being pinned down into a too-predictable form. The tick-tick of a subtle rhythm pattern also underscores the wayward paths etched out during “Bleach Black.” Yamasaki’s breathy voice returns to wraps itself around gaseous emissions and ethereal drift of guitar haze in “Iris (Familiar).”

Certain pieces illustrate how varying the album can be, without losing a general focus. Though it’s a mere two minutes in length, “Frosted Mint” nevertheless showcases the Fourcolour sound in beautiful fashion with its delicate and crystalline ambient tinting, and “Snow Petal” does much the same in its slow-motion sound painting. An Oval-esque style emerges during “Carmine Fall” when fluttering micro-fragments of soft, organ-like clicks and tones billow alongside convulsions of burbling haze . “Ecru Diver” offers an appealing departure from the Fourcolor norm in emphasizing an insistent jazz-like swing in its rhythms and an aquatic, even dubby production quality that differentiate the track from the others, which hew to a more meditative dreamscaping style. In a more aggressive revisit of the opening track, “Quiet Gray 2” recasts the guitar playing as stark stutter and scalpel-edged shards. Put simply, Sugimoto’s work can be characterized as micro-detailed ambient soundscaping coaxed into being from electric guitars and electronics. Consequently, As Pleat exudes a clarity and precision of tone that proves entrancing in the textural richness of its multi-layered interplay.

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