Review of As Pleat [12k1065]

The Liminal (UK)

Music as a form of escapism is something I’ve always embraced and enjoyed. It doesn’t matter what format the music is in (be it vinyl, CD or download), the ability to press play and disappear into another place is a priceless achievement. Different music can act as a gateway or a soundtrack to different times and environments. Personally, sitting at my desk and directing a computer seems to need something more drone-like: music that is low, humming and repetitive, as if to concentrate the mind on the task in hand. When I want to relax and change my mood, something soothing and more rhythmic on the jazz spectrum seems to do the trick. In this vein, Keiichi Sugimoto (aka Fourcolor) on his latest LP for 12K, As Pleat, has crafted an album that is pure escapism: a soundtrack to an alien terrain far-away.

Fourcolor is the moniker under which Sugimoto tends to explore his more ambient and “pop” compositions. And that’s certainly true with As Pleat. An expanded, though delicate, palette of sounds are used to gently watercolour a widescreen canvas. Beginning with ‘Quiet Gray 1’, which features the haunting vocals of Sanae Yamasaki (aka Moskitoo), it starts with a piercing glitch of guitar chords and crackled drum snares. It’s all crystal clear apart from a low, generator like hum that sits in the background. It conjures up images of far eastern pavilions shrouded in mist as the first morning rays break cover. ‘Skating Azure’ is reminiscent of Gold Panda’s recent form of electronica. Rolling rhythmic beats clip and curl, pierced by shards of single beamed noise that depict the ways of the Orient. ‘Frosted Mint’ crackles and expands like plastic on a hot day. The guitar an accent of harmony that sketches the boundaries in which the simple piano can play. It’s so sparse, so delicate, that it feels alive – a living, breathing entity that’s almost too delicate to survive, the combination of guitar and piano a cooling breeze on a summer’s day, clearing your mind of unnecessary and cluttering thoughts.

As the direct opposite to this, ‘Carmine Falls’ is dense and fraught. At the centre of a black hole, where nothing can escape, this is what happens to sound. Each composite noise is tightly wound, a circular movement of music forever pulling inwards. Inexplicably, it then spins itself loose. The music becomes more disconnected and flows outwards again – a release valve is opened and the music disperses. The sound is finally released to populate a new and unrelated soundscape.

‘Ecru Diver’ is a gloopy and watery immersion of melody in which the keyboard tones reverberate as ripples across its surface. ‘Snow Petal’ is as delicate and as icy cool as its name suggests – guitar chords are like specks of static whilst a glacial hum underpins it. Moskitoo returns on ‘Iris’, lending a disconnected narrative to the lazy piano chords that crawl over the delicate pattern of rhythm. The album finishes with ‘Quiet Gray 2’ and is one of the most esoteric pieces – a companion pattern to the opening track. It’s full of jarring breaks and the music is edited in a skipping fashion, as if the needle on your record player hits random bumps on its journey. It jumps, crackles and spars with the simple guitar that’s at the centre, shimmering in its naked elegance.

As Pleat is a beautifully sparse yet detailed piece of music. Each track may be considered as a separate piece, but the fifty plus minutes which comprises the album sweeps by in a continuous flow. Sugimoto has created a perfect piece of escapism, but one that’s not throwaway. The sonic depth that’s worked here rewards each listen – new details emerge from the broad canvas. Ultimately though, no matter how often you play this record, it becomes a soundtrack to be embraced, to cheerish and to be used as it was intended: a means of removing yourself from your current locale and connecting with another place entirely.

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