Review of Dureé [12k1058]

Tokafi (.COM)

To Proto-Industrial Metal band Ministry, the mind was a terrible thing to taste. To Minamo, it’s indivisible, ineffable and endless – in short, quite wonderful. Gently guided by Keiichi Sagomoto, who initially founded the formation as a duo with Tetsuro Yasunaga, the Tokyo-based four-piece have, through more than ten years of improvisation and inspired editing, explored an area where a cast of individuals turns into a single creative body and where fragile tones open up a space of pristine and undiluted presence. Their discography is one of astounding continuity and confidence about their goals, methods and aesthetics: Changes from one album to the next are taking place at a molecular level and the pervasive notion of progress has been replaced by one of continual refinement and purification. Even though one could certainly argue that Durée represents both a milestone within this continuum and yet another significant step forward in terms of their interaction, statements like this are therefore ultimately meaningless: You can’t separate one release from the other.

And yet, their first full-length in three years does take their discrete development towards concretion to a mesmerising mezzanine. From here, the band could virtually go anywhere: Into a territory of dreamy, song-oriented Ambient-Folk, into cool, analytical improvisation or into post-rock-affiliated electroacoustic heaven. For the moment, however, their co-ordinates are intriguing enough to warrant an extended stay: Whereas „Zeitraum“, a document recorded on their 2003-tour with the now defunct Apestaartje-imprint, was still a trippy galaxy of floating harmonics, pointillist note-painting and microtectonic shifts, „Durée“ is marked by a quite physical notion of rhythm, a conscious cross-fertilisation between Cajun-flavoured acoustics and meditative Drones, tentative stabs at melody as well as, arguably most significantly, an unprecedented urgency in terms of compositional approach. The Guitar has prominently moved to the fore and rather than obsessing with the textural details of their sound, Minamo are anchoring their pieces in cycles of repeatedly strummed chords or readily accessible thematic progressions.

The result feels like a stream of tender telepathic messages emitted by a field of absolute awareness. “Helical Scenery” at first seems to hinge on nothing but two plaintive tones. Then a sweet complimentary harmonic kicks in, waves of tranquil harmonica-breaths are creating a sense of being softly rocked, while the Guitar contributes a steady harmonic grounding, taking the track to an entirely new direction. Organically, drum brushes and a rhythmic pattern of hissing white noise are laying down a groove, as naive scats-vocals add a touch of 60s-Pop. “Help Ourselves” opens on a similar vein, with a simple chord-scheme being slowly developed into a subdued anthem filled with majestic swells and plug-ins tumbling in- and out of utter chaos. Nowhere, however, are Minamo as effective as on “Elementary Domain”, the almost too-perfect-to-be-true opener: Sheets of glassy resonance are forming a mobile backdrop to infinitely slowly billowing streaks of sound and a series of Guitar motives developing from almost spaced-out triads to increasingly more self-assured and tangible expressions.

Inspired by the writings of French philosopher Henri Bergson, Minamo are following a complex train of thought: Duration (Durée) as a scientific concept is based on the ideas of juxtaposition and constancy. Bergson insisted that these were notions derived from an immobile world incapable of describing the actual phenomenon. To get an idea of its true characteristics, he explained, one would have to think of it as a pure process of expansion, leaving in its trail a series of onedimensional dots on an invisible scale. Nothing connects them, nothing binds them together and every notion of cause and effect is merely the human mind trying to make sense of it all.

None of these mindgames have explicitly made it to Durée. Instead, Minamo are following nothing but their instincts to put these principles into practise, arriving at a point both perfectly on Bergson’s line and yet strangely detached from space. No words can describe the rational with which they’re proceeding, no manual explain the reasoning behind their trajectory. Improvisation is turning into a technique to decode the intricacies of the moment, intuition into a key for making sense of these mellow manoeuvres. Philosophy is rarely a good conceptual basis for albums. But here it is working wondrously well.

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