Revisiting Ryuichi Sakamoto's "Back To The Basics" in 'Energy Flow"

There are not many men like Ryuichi Sakamoto orbiting the musical universe anymore. Sakamoto is one of the rare few artists that can say they broke new ground influencing and shaping the most long standing traditions in music as well as being razor sharp on the edge of his experimentations that were responsible for influencing multiple modern genres. His musical career is vast and this has allowed him to collaborate with a wide and varied miscellany of illustrious artists that are as far apart musically as the earth’s poles. Because of Ryuichi’s naturalistic and fundamental understanding of music he has managed to extend his works into every corner of the musical biosphere with great acclaim but it’s in ‘energy flow’ reissued for the 20th anniversary edition of ‘Back To The Basics’ we discover how Ryuichi developed solo piano pieces that went on to be his break through album. The intention of BTTB was to showcase his love for traditional classical compositions while exploring different methods and themes he was passionate about at the time resulting in an scarcely available album outside of Japan that is coveted by fans and collectors alike. 

In ‘energy flow’ we are treated to a composition in the sonata form that’s musical canon is varied in tempo from its introduction to final phrase. BTTB has been described as “delicate and frantic”, in ‘energy flow’ we get to feel the more “delicate” end of things as the movements progress from moments of melancholy, to wonder to hope and back again. The piece is complex and performed with the kind of fragile passion that can only be expressed by an indubitable musical maestro, which Sakamoto is in every sense of the word. If you are a fan of piano music or have a curiosity for classical composition then I would imagine Ryuichi could be the gateway composer that will introduce you to whole new wonderful world.  

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The magical world of Masakatsu Takagi

While many features on our blog are about up and coming musicians, part-timers, or those looking for a break, Masakatsu Takagi is very much a professional musician. While not a household name by any stretch, those interested in anime will have no doubt heard Takagi's work before. He has been a frequent collaborator with Mamoru Hosoda and has scored his highly acclaimed animation films, Wolf Children (2012), The Boy and the Beast (2015) and this year's Mirai (2018), which has already garnered rave reviews both in Japan and around the world.

The film was recently released in America through GKIDS. The soundtrack which contains our featured track, "Inner Garden" was released the same day by Milan Records based out of LA. While I haven’t had the chance to watch Mirai yet to comment on how the music harmonizes with the image, from what I've heard of the score, including this whimsical little number "Inner Garden", it more than stands on its own as a beautifully composed, emotional soundtrack.

Masakatsu Takagi has been compared to some great composers like Ryuichi Sakamoto, Goldmund, Philip Glass, Alexandra Streliski and more, but his work really stands on its own. There's a magical quality to his compositions. There’s a feeling of being in touch with nature, a simplicity, free of noise and clutter.

Our featured track, "Inner Garden" is a wonderful example of Takagi's talent and contains rich instrumentation ranging from delicate piano flutters, to chimes, wood blocks, strings and more. There's an Asian feeling to the tune, leaning towards Buddhism or Shintoism, as bells, blocks, chimes and a feeling of serenity loom throughout. There's almost a cyclical feeling emoted, which I'm sure has to do with themes in the film as, Mirai deals with a young boy travelling through time to meet his relatives from different generations.

The soundtrack to Mirai was recently released and comes highly recommended to fans of animation music, soundtracks, classical music and piano music. This is a piece of art everyone should really discover. It's a chance to shut off the noise of the world for a bit and be transported to a magical world created by Masakatsu Takagi.

Animation fans make sure to catch Mirai, especially if it's playing a theater near you. For the rest of us, if “Inner Garden” has piqued your interest, make sure to check out Masakatsu Takagi's other art, both in audio and visual form on the following platforms below:

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Pianist Alexandra Stréliski Explores Moments of Vulnerability with INSCAPE

“A piano, on its own, is a very vulnerable thing, and I want to share this moment with the listener.” 

This honest confession coming from Montreal-based pianist and composer Alexandra Stréliski, commenting on her latest release, and second full length album, INSCAPE. A work that is largely characterized by vulnerability, sincerity and honesty, not only in the medium but also in it’s inspiration and delivery.

The creative medium itself, a piano laid bare, carries with it a kind of intrinsic sincerity. Nothing to hide behind, no overbearing production, nothing competing for your attention. Simply and naturally, Stréliski and her piano.

The inspiration for the album as well carries with it a kind of honest vulnerability.
“To me,” says Stréliski, “Inscape was an existential crisis. A year where everything capsized and I had to go through various interior landscapes – hectic, beautiful and painful at the same time. I found myself in a space filled with grey areas that I didn’t know how to escape.”

The album is a collection of fleeting moments which are as much an internal dialogue as they are meant for a larger audience. Coming to terms with unanswered questions and loose ends, INSCAPE is one part melancholic masterpiece and one part triumphant metamorphosis. A delicate butterfly of rare authenticity within the contemporary music landscape.

Out now from Montreal label ‘Secret City Records’
Grab the release on their website

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Getting lost in Machines with Poltrock.

Belgium producer David Poltrock is not like most producers. He is somewhat of a rarity. He doesn’t come from a traditional producer background, should it be Hip-Hop or some form of computer music. Instead, David comes from an Indie background. And when you are influenced more by bands rather than strictly producers you are naturally more instrument-focused and tend to be more focused musicianship.

Not saying that producers are not skilled musicians, many of them are, but in most cases beat makers tend to focus on drums and layers to create an overall sound in all of their various sequences. While a producer coming from a band background will tend to put instrumentation front and centre. This is very much the case in ‘Titanus’.

Throughout the track you can sense how passionate David is about his vintage synths and as he describes it himself, his “old and stubborn Steinway upright”, which takes centre stage in the second half of the track. You can tell how deeply connected with them he is because of how he records them, clean, crisp and raw!

The mastering of Titanus makes you feel like you are standing next to David in a intimate space while he lays everything down, pounding out pulsing and soaring synth lines and gently coaxing out notes from his Steinway. The piano sequences are edited together in a rough and ready fashion, forgoing unnecessary sheen and polish for a kind of rare authenticity. It is like Poltrock wanted you to feel every frequency vibrate through your body like he does throughout his sessions. And in this he succeeds. The synths resonate powerfully and majestically, taking flight as the track builds in its intensity, while the old, stubborn Steinway gives us relief in it’s still and gentle melodies.

If you are a fan of Nils Frahm, Jon Hopkins or Moderat be sure to check out Poltrock as he is definitely one to watch in the coming years. Also be sure to check out the pre-order for David’s ‘Machines’ album which is due for release on the 16th of November. 

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