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Sawako - Omnibus

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Artist: Sawako

Album: Omnibus

Label: Community Library

Review date: Nov. 15, 2005

The liner notes for Omnibus explain, “This project is still under construction. so feel free to make your own remix with this CD…and if your version is nice, contact sawako…”. Her email address and a warning regarding “copywrite” (sic) laws follow.

And so the listener is invited to participate in the music of Japanese sound artist Sawako. Since all the pieces here are themselves collaborations with other electronic artists, and the DJ-minded label Community Library has released them, the ten tracks on this EP feel incomplete, as if they are fragments waiting to be merged into some larger scheme.

Clocking in at under twenty minutes, Omnibus flutters by almost unnoticed, a low profile aided by the modesty of the sounds produced by Sawako and her ten collaborators. “o r g” offers only a sheet of glockenspiel tones delicately spread on a bed of children’s voices and a few stray bird calls. The cries of children appear again on “pincry”, fused with an indistinct rumble and tinny digital music box melody. The fifty-five second “practice” features a close-mic'd acoustic guitar flirting with jazz chords and smatters of traffic noise. “end roll” suggests the barest of house beats, the snare hits more echo than actual rhythm. Each piece flows by in under two minutes, offers its suggestion then disappears, as if they are just brainstorms scribbled on a blackboard for later consideration.

The most fully developed pieces come from Tu’m and Hypo. They extend the original sound sources (more bird chatter and pre-adolescent vocalizing, flickers of string instruments, bits of piano chords), stretching them into near transparent layers and stacking them one on the other so that each is perpetually audible. Strangely, these beguiling tracks sound the most out of place, as they are too complete, the evidence of choices being made too apparent.

Sawako, in a way that, depending on your perspective, is either pathetically weak-kneed or nobly humble, challenges the listener to do more than passively listen. Omnibus is a puzzle for which you get most of the pieces, but the box has no picture.

By Matthew Wuethrich

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