Asuna ~ Tide Ripples

tide ripplesAsuna is never one to keep things simple, as his music can contain up to a hundred parts. From drone-piece 100 Keyboards to the more bombastic live show 100 Toys, Asuna piles on more and more sounds until his pieces strain so far towards chaos they run the risk of collapsing completely. Asuna knows what he is doing, so the pieces never go too far, but to call his music “multi-layered” is a slight disservice. A “layer” is a meaningless term for something so astoundingly dense.

Compared to this side of his output, Tide Ripples begins to sound positively restrained. Here the mood is gentle, almost tender, and despite the obvious presence of some uncountable number of sounds feeding into it, Tide Ripples gives the impression of being stripped back and streamlined. Both 20-minute pieces are introduced by acoustic guitar loops around which Asuna’s layer-swarm will cluster. Some of these additions are more prominent than others, and these more distinct parts are utterly beautiful. Particularly noteworthy are the waif-like vocals of Rima Kato, part cry and part whisper, which provide Tide Ripples with a kind of breathless tranquillity.

Often the weight of background noise will swell without raising attention to itself. This effect characterises “Midnight Snow, Street Lights, Window of Empty Building”, where hypnotic guitar loops distract from the space in which Asuna steadily cultivates an increasingly powerful drone. As the guitar fades, the curtain opens and the attention shifts. The bewilderingly complex sound is left with its pulsating warmth naked and the audience confused as to how something with an almost physical presence can sneak up like that.

The strange thing about Tide Ripples, and one which speaks most for Asuna’s talent, is how something so saturated can appear so minimal. There is a kind of clean purity here: a sense of easiness that stops the parts from all weighing down at once. Attention is allowed to drift between guitar, vocals and drone – even away from the music and back again – without the slightest resistance or effort. In the end, Asuna’s endless layering has broken through to an absurd peace, as if Tide Ripples sits in an eye without a storm. It leaves us with little comprehension of how or why it works out to be so calm, but grateful that it does.  (Jonny Hunter)

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