Asphalt / Concrete: everyday sounds in urban Osaka become portals to microworlds beyond our experience

Masayuki Imanishi, Asphalt / Concrete, Belgium, Unfathomless, U82 CD (2024)

For the past several years since the global COVID-19 pandemic began and lockdowns around the world followed, sound artist Masayuki Imanishi has been recording sonic journals of daily life in his home city Osaka with a cassette tape recorder, PCM recorder, microphone and various other materials. He released “Insects Are” on Daniel Crokaert’s label Unfathomless back in 2021 and here he is again on Unfathomless with “Asphalt / Concrete”. As the album and track titles indicate, the source materials recorded for the soundscapes featured derive from locations in the Osaka urban environment including Imanishi’s own home.

Even though the sounds recorded for the two tracks (“Asphalt” and “Concrete”, what else?) are actually common everyday sounds, when recorded and amplified as they are here, they transform into astonishingly huge works of sound art, acting as portals into universes that exist in parallel with ours yet remain out of reach to our senses. Even something as commonplace as the sounds of a train station or the crunch of tiny stones beneath one’s feet take on a new identity, even a new consciousness … and that consciousness may harbour intentions indifferent or even sinister towards us. “Asphalt” especially contains sound worlds that can be very dynamic, with active systems (perhaps even systems with their own life forms and processes) in continuous change and flux. Machines blast away, motor blades whir, distant trains rumble and other noises come and go in worlds constantly transforming even as we observe them.

“Concrete” seems a much darker, more interior dimension, with noises that can appear more deliberate and less spontaneous or lively … though that may be just because of the way Imanishi has sequenced the various recordings on this particular piece. There are quiet sections on this track and you need to pay close attention to whatever noises and textures appear here. Sounds simmer rather than tumble, and you find yourself waiting, perhaps even dreading, at what might erupt at any moment …

Who could have thought that the sounds and noises of everyday life, generated by machines with no lives or consciousness of their own, could turn out to be gateways to microworlds brimming with their own very animated and lively forms of life and conscious being?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *