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Minamo - A Herdsman's Life

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Artist: Minamo

Album: A Herdsman's Life

Label: Esquilo

Review date: Nov. 6, 2006

Minamo are a Japanese four-piece who play music as though no one’s life really depends on it. Lest you think I’m damning the group, I wouldn’t dare to imply there’s no personal investment in this music: it’s definitely keenly thought through and the group’s members (Keiichi Sugimoto, Yichiro Iwashita, Namiko Sasamoto and Tetsuro Yasunaga) are dedicated to their craft. Minamo’s music is quiet and reflective and instead of pouncing on moments, it gently prowls the perimeters of experience, interjecting serene motifs that repeat almost absent-mindedly.

At times, Minamo recall the rusted ambience of Seaworthy or the graceful theories of Gastr Del Sol. If you were being unfair, you could say Minamo, and their forebears, were ponderous, maybe emotionally evasive. But I never agreed with that sentiment: not only does it privilege emotion as the fundamental of music, it also maintains direct and unmediated experience, itself an ontological fallacy, as instinctively superior to the ‘pretensions’ of thought, a hierarchy that doubtless needs destabilising at various times. Like right now.

Minamo have come a fair way from their earliest incarnations, which I remember being made aware of by Tim Barnes back in 2002, via the group's Quakebasket and 360° label releases. Their pellucid, wandering improvisations grab butterfly melodies from the air, place them in inverted harmonic constructions, and then pin them to a bedrock of bubbling, swirling electronics like a lepidopterist. It’s very poised stuff, slowly paced and comfortable with process, as though the quartet are letting you in at the developmental level, listening to them approach everything from different angles. Would calling it lovely really damn it with faint praise? This is undeniably lovely stuff.

By Jon Dale

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