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Koji Asano - Sanctuary on Reclaimed Land

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Artist: Koji Asano

Album: Sanctuary on Reclaimed Land

Label: Solstice

Review date: Jun. 2, 2005

Ranging from gorgeous Satie style piano meditations and minimalist field recordings to full on tumults of searing power electronics, the output of composer Koji Asano is as diverse as it is prolific – this is the astonishing 36th release in a career spanning just over a decade. Perhaps these two characteristics of his work help explain Asano’s relatively low-profile in comparison to other artists ploughing the same sonic fields, many of them fellow-countrymen. Even (or should that be especially) The Wire enjoys compartmentalizing music into neatly defined categories.

His latest offering, Sanctuary on Reclaimed Land, is the first since recently migrating from Barcelona, back to his native Japan (his reclaimed land?). Composed for last year’s Sound Art Lab Exhibition, which took place in Osaka, Japan, this record features Asano back tinkling the ivories of his favored grand piano, but adds yet another side to his multi-dimensional game. Inside the huge empty Osaka harbor warehouse, home for four hours every day during his allotted week as artist-in-residence, Asano would conjure sometimes subtle, often brash, statements on the keys. These were then heavily processed to create cavernous sweeps of sound that slowly melted into the ether. The results are not dissimilar to the living drones of New Yorker William Basinski’s Disintegration Loops series or the meteorologically motivated performances of the Aeolian String Ensemble. Asano keenly exploited the physical properties of his performance space. Effectively positioned microphones were set up to collect the scattered shots of piano tone as they ricocheted around the harbor warehouse, reverberating off the walls. The organic sounds of the piano merge with the computer generated detritus, each jousting for dominance, until finally they became inseparable. Sound sculptor and author David Toop coined the phrase “haunted weather” to describe music like this, and it is certainly very apt in this case.

The document isn’t entirely successful. While those visitors to the exhibition would have enjoyed all the competing sensations of a glorious summer’s day in an Osaka harbor warehouse, with the smell and touch of the incoming sea breeze, the taste of moisture in the air as they patrolled the spacious interior of the venue, we are left with only the soundtrack. By providing only one element of the work’s entirety you can’t help feel there is something missing. Which, of course, there is.

By Spencer Grady

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