Old Memories

Happy to receive this set of compositions from Kazuya Ishigami, a serious modern composer who was born and studied in Osaka. To my chagrin we never heard his beautiful music before, although I think we may once have been sent a record by the noise band Billy? (active since 1995) of which he’s a member. Ishigami studied musique concrète and electronic music, and began doing computer music in 1992. Besides studying at Osaka University, he also learned electroacoustic composition at INA-GRM in France, and has had his works performed internationally. He now runs his own record label, and considers himself a composer, sound artist, sound designer, and sound engineer, happy for his output to be labelled with everything from acousmatic to ambient and noise.

The album Cleaner 583 (SLOWDOWN RECORDS SDRSW 06) has an unassuming, slightly perplexing cover which didn’t quite prepare me for the contents. Broadly, it starts out incredibly understated (near-silent), almost bleak in its cold and spaced-out void-ness; and gradually becomes more fulsome, rich and expressive towards the end, by which point I was becoming a convert. At times this music is so insubstantial it’s hard to say what keeps one listening, and indeed why it should be so compelling. At a pinch, I might liken this wispy and ethereal sound to the wonderful Matsuo Ohno, whose I Saw The Outer Limits does much to suggest the cold emptiness of outer space. Cleaner 583 is certainly not about outer space, though. There’s a human dimension, but it seems to exceed our own perception somehow. It presents, to my overheated imagination, a vista much like a modernistic shopping mall, or a vast industrial estate which is surprisingly clean and empty. The perspectives seem to trail on forever, each girder and strut of each building in this retail village precisely delineated by the music. Yet it’s not an architectural drawing, or grid structure, as Ryoji Ikeda would have insisted upon; it’s more like a watercolour painting, that suggests lines through the use of tone. If I’m halfway right about this, perhaps it means that Ishigami has truly found a way to inject computer-based music with emotion, imagination, warmth and dream-like sensations, transcending the limitations of the cybernetic medium.

Some of these impressions of mine might be confirmed by Ishigami’s press notes, which refer to “a new acoustic space” which is “created by collision of sound and noise”. I also like the suggestion that this could be “an overwhelming new dimension”. Overwhelming is an odd choice of word for such gentle (yet firm) music; I’m beguiled at first, but ultimately feeling quite vertiginous as I seem to stand on the precipice of a skyscraper, or wander down infinite hallways where the quality of internal light is something that most modern architects would give their set-squares to try and replicate. None of these themes are indicated by the titles, by the way, which refer to ‘Grumbling’, ‘Discontent’, ‘Old Memories’ and a ‘Sticking Man’. When you combine those titles with the impressions of the music, we’re almost seeing Keir Dullea imprisoned by the mysterious aliens at the end of 2001. Only the titles ‘Inner Soul’ and ‘Blessing’ point to the elements of spiritual harmony and inner peace that this music is capable of generating.

I realise the above writing probably reads like bland vapouring, but there’s no use in trying to apply any descriptive prose to the music itself, which is positively evanescent. How can something so ethereal have such a core of strength, such radiating power? A most beautiful mystery, to be sure. From 28 February 2017.

Available from Parallax Records

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