Dusted Reviews

Koji Asano - Absurd Summer / Gondola Odyssey / Piano Suite 1

today features
reviews charts
labels writers
info donate

Search by Artist

Sign up here to receive weekly updates from Dusted

email address

Recent Reviews

Dusted Reviews

Artist: Koji Asano

Album: Absurd Summer / Gondola Odyssey / Piano Suite 1

Label: Solstice

Review date: Jun. 22, 2003

Three new releases from
composer Koji Asano

Over the course of more than 30 self-produced albums, the young Japanese composer Koji Asano (currently based in Barcelona) follows his music wherever it leads him, and prolifically documents those journeys in the public sphere. Three recent offerings show that he’s not about to change.

Absurd Summer is split into eleven parts, each with widely varying character, but tied together aesthetically by chunky filtered and distortion-laden piano figures that drift in and out of a churning stew of noise. Imagine Guitar Wolf doing Satie, and you might be in the ballpark. Alternately sounding like a steel mill, a gamelan buried under lead filings, or Yanni being played through burning speaker cones, this is an interesting listen. The entire album was either recorded or mastered extremely hot, so you get distortion artifacts from the media itself, which becomes a bit tiresome by the end of the record. Is Asano calling our attention to the physicality of the compact disc? The inherent difference between recorded and ‘live’ music? Or was this album just poorly engineered? Though the use of ‘distorted’ piano is not ‘new’ (whatever that means) – see Karlheinz Stockhausen’s ‘Mantra’, or John Cage’s 1940s prepared piano pieces, for example – Absurd Summer is interesting in its occasional use of non-periodic rhythm and an expanded sound palette for our old hammered friend.

The sound of Gondola Odyssey doesn’t conjure up images of the stereotypical tourist ride in Venice that its title implies. According to Asano’s website, however, the intention was indeed to show “the beautiful landscapes of [a] romantic voyage...” It is possible (though highly unlikely) that the album uses field recordings of a mechanical gondola floating over a city somewhere as source material for electronics processing, because the work has a vividly industrial, mechanical feel. All the pieces begin and end abruptly, like the recorder was destroyed during production, and what we hear are the remaining shards. Comprised mostly of layered drones that have an impressive depth, there is the illusion (or is it?) of harmonic movement in some of the monolithic sound masses that make up these pieces.

With Piano Suite Vol. 1 – Fitness Club, Asano eschews electronics for a set of self-consciously light-hearted piano miniatures with titles like “Stockbroker” and “Frozen Food”. Although admirably constructed, and cleanly articulated in perfomance by pianist Isao Otake, the pieces work a compositional region that received a much subtler and deeper exploration in the work of French composer Erik Satie at the beginning of the 20th century. There are some creative thoughts here, however. The polyrhythmic disruptions of the tempo (sounding like the left hand chasing after the right, one hand in slow motion, the other in real time) are interesting, and executed subtly and brilliantly by Otake. Perhaps the problem with these pieces is that they are too ‘good.' They are well crafted, cogent, intelligent, and at times funny. For some reason, though, that’s not enough for this listener. Sonically, the quality of the piano is rather thin and dry, as if it was recorded in a jail cell on a baby grand without a soundboard, which may actually distract from the content of the piece, to a degree.

Koji Asano, through a tremendous amount of hustle and self-promotion, seems to be on the verge of what little success an ‘avant-garde’ or ‘new music’ composer can eke out in this world. He appears to be doing exactly what he wants to do, and is not afraid to present his sometimes underdeveloped ideas to the listening public. Perhaps that is the best thing a young composer can hope to achieve.

By Andrew Raffo Dewar

Other Reviews of Koji Asano

Sanctuary on Reclaimed Land

Final Insurance - Collection Vol 2: 1992-1994

Read More

View all articles by Andrew Raffo Dewar

Find out more about Solstice

©2002-2011 Dusted Magazine. All Rights Reserved.