on October 5, 2013
I am a fan of minimalist ambient genre. This is an OK to excellent release, but the quality of recording could have been much better. It sounds like the recording engineer went out for a burger while they were taping. It isnt good enough to be called a demo release, if you ask me.
Don't get me wrong. It sounds fine on an iPhone or cheap PC speakers. But this sort of music demands a high end level equipment. When I play it in mine, the highs are missing, there is no ambiance, the lows are also MIA. It mumbles to itself, more or less.
At first I thought the quality was low because I bought this release as an MP3 (compressed format) Amazon digital download. But my past Amazon downloads sounded almost indistinguishable from their original CDs played in elite audio system. Some sounded better than their FLAC copies, which are supposed to be uncompressed! So, the only party to blame is the original sound engineer.
It is crucial for a minimalist ambient CD to be of absolutely perfect audio quality. It isn't a pop release after all. You can't dance to it (nor would you want to). There is no rhythm, there are no choruses. The quality is in the details which I had trouble hearing. So, it fell apart on me.
It is a pity that I found an excellent release but it turned out to be be badly released.
PS. I wanted to give it 3 stars originally, but format and delivery are secondary to the music itself. I think the musicians had done a terrific job. So, four stars it is.
on December 29, 2013
Many reviews have described this music; it consists of Sakamoto's piano against washes of electronic sound by Fennesz. The only problem here is that their electronic processing has given the piano a rather hard and clangy or ringing quality (or it may be a combination of the studio acoustics with the processing--at any rate, the result is not a piano sound that is easy to listen to). So if you're a fan of these two guys, you can confidently purchase this for the musical values, but should be forewarned that the production values fall well short of the top tier. I don't agree that bass is lacking, since not all ambient music has a lot of bass anyway; if they could have avoided that ringing, pinging piano this would all be fine.
on May 6, 2012
Listening to Christian Fennesz and Ryuichi Sakamoto is an experience of itself. Personally, I like to prepare for this two-hour sonic trip by opening up my windows, lighting up some mild incense, and brewing up some genmaicha (Japanese green tea with roasted brown rice). As the sunlight enters my room and gets trapped by the slowly rising smoke, the hot tea and the soft music gently flow through my body, warming up my extremities, essence and soul. The ambient textures lightly swirl in the air, as the tender piano keys sparsely land on the strings. The seemingly abstract atmosphere is delicate, soothing and a bit somber, perfectly balancing all other senses for curating a relaxing state of mind. At the end, the music is neither subjectively demanding nor is it boring - exactly as Brian Eno preferred it, when he defined his description of ambient music. If ambient music is intended to "induce calm and a space to think," then Flumina delivers just that, with every flawless detail.
The twenty four tracks on this double disc album are titled after twenty four days, from March 18 to April 29th, during which Ryuichi Sakamoto recorded his piano compositions while touring in Japan. Prior to the performance, Sakamoto would semi-improvise a new piece in a different key, eventually covering all twenty four tonal steps of the scale. The pieces were then delivered to Christian Fennesz, who has layered additional synth pads, tiny electronic elements, and of course, his guitar. Sakamoto's piano takes on the foreground and lead on each recording, while Fennesz's buzzing hums fill in the spaces in between - something that the duo has perfect for this third collaboration together recorded for Touch.
Sakamoto's melodies remain somewhat abstract, wondering and subtle, abandoning cohesive song structure while clearing the mind. Flumina happens to be a two-hour head cleaner prescribed by a doctor when one submits to complaints of overabundance. Definitely different from the duo's recording at the Auditorium Parco della Music in Rome, Sala Santa Cecilia (Touch, 2005), and a further exploration in minimal sound than their celebrated Cendre (Touch, 2007), but nevertheless incredibly welcome collection of miniature vignettes. Over burdened with a torrent of new sounds and fatigued with over compressed post production? You must find the time for Flumina! For fans of Harold Budd, Steve Roach and Brian Eno. Doctor recommended. - HC, MD