Ryuichi Sakamoto: 12
Ryuichi Sakamoto (piano) (Milan Records)
Ryuichi Sakamoto (piano)
Milan Records G010004936240G 61:06 mins
Ryuichi Sakamoto’s liner note to 12 is slight and pared back, like the music itself. ‘There are no adornments,’ he writes of the self-described sketches drawn during rehabilitation after a significant operation. That’s not strictly accurate: while the intriguingly coded miniatures – each identified by an eight-digit title, presumably the date of composition – are structurally and melodically clean, some additional effects are used during these otherwise solo piano works. An expanse of ethereal electronica opens the album; there are several minutes of what feels like white noise before the piano begins its slow, methodical plod. It’s strangely comforting, like a Rothko or Yves Klein painting; the minimalism inspired by the purity of Feldman or Cage, rather than the pop style that infuses later tracks.
Pieces such as 20220123 and 20220214 reveal gradual melodic development, which tends to focus around the upper-mid-range of the keyboard. Just one piece has a word attached to it – 20220302, a mysterious jazz-infused reflection, is marked ‘sarabande’. Sakamoto sees this music as a series of diary entries, and it is possible to trace subtle shifts in mood. The sarabande-like motif appears again fleetingly in 20220404 in a more muted form; it is followed by strange tinkling bells, an unsettling conclusion to this programatic release.