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Minamo - Shining

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Artist: Minamo

Album: Shining

Label: 12k

Review date: May. 25, 2005

On Minamo’s second album .kgs, the Tokyo-based foursome delivered shamanistic electronic shape-shifting and a sense of band dynamic with guitar, saxophone and computers. Their vibrant slow growth, similar to natural processes like grass growing or clouds passing, reached a near flawless height. They recreated the scene on a brief U.S. tour with Tim Barnes, illustrating that their organic approach needed no studio protection. Quite a striking anomaly amongst the throngs of similarly minded electronic musicians.

Their next and first wildly available stateside release (not counting Quakebasket’s 100 edition Box series) Beautiful was a lingering step-sideways. Pieces played themselves via looped processing without the ghost of feeling. Minamo’s delicate structure can easily crumble from striking humanistic architecture into paltry, wallpaper ambience, and most of Beautiful did.

On the new Shining, the erratic and spontaneous dust of albums past has been polished into a smoother, digital veneer with minor eruptions and jittering magnetics, fitting with the move to 12k. Member Keiichi Sugimoto’s recent ventures into drone and electronica with his solo Four Color and Fonica duo, respectively, lay the groundwork for Shining and the result is crisp, slow-motion improvisations that echo the environmental compositions of Jacob Kirkegaard and Giuseppe Ielasi’s solo work (whose Gesine could be a companion-piece to Shining).

While the six pieces lack Namiko Sasamoto’s pervious rious saxophone gambits (she sticks solely to keyboards here), Yuichiro Iwashita’s acoustic guitar sets the true inimitable of Minamo; he slowly plucks string after string, a continuum rural folk tumbling that balances between Takoma and Taku Sugimoto. The immense drafts between his notes allow the tonal swelling to overflow. The opener, “Crumbling” grows from a dark globose character that becomes awash in brittle static and multi-melodic layers. Peeking with brilliant flutters, the piece pulses on for 12 minutes, slowly absorbing distant sine waves.

Minamo doesn’t try to take you on a dramatic journey, one merely floats around their lazy river, soaking in the languid swaths of Tetsuro Yasunaga’s processed guitar and translucent chirping tones. Press your ear against the inner tube and deep, churning waves send aftershocks ricocheting during “Raum” and “Serene.” The undertows are as probing as Iwashita’s outer melodies. When he sits out, Sasamoto steps up with lingering electric piano laments that takes “Stay Still” into sentient pastures.

While Minamo have opted towards a more precise sheen, their mortally charged electronica and sonorous sculptors are unchanged, still keeping them heads above the Powerbook-wielding masses.

By Eric Weddle

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