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Ryuichi Sakamoto's genius finds new life in 'Async - Remodels'

An album exploring the concept of mortality, as Sakamoto was suffering with oropharyngeal cancer and potentially facing his own death. 

Over the last four decades, Ryuichi Sakamoto has permanently changed the way we listen to contemporary music. He’s managed this through his personal ambition for innovation via collaboration. Throughout his career, Sakamoto has experimented with electro, electro-acoustic, jazz, classical, neoclassical and ambient, whether that be in the form of The Yellow Orchestra or working with Fennesz – collaboration has been central to Sakamoto’s creative process.

However, the necessity of Async being a solo venture is so important. Released in April 2017, it’s an album which sought after exploring the concept of mortality as Sakamoto was suffering with oropharyngeal cancer and potentially facing his own death. This makes Async - Remodels feel more like a companion record, a miraculous triumph against his diagnosis and supposed fate through the lens of both those he has influenced and his contemporaries.

These reflections on Async are varied and ambitious. Pooling a list of some of the most exciting and forward-thinking electronic musicians in the industry, this ‘remix’ album is more of a series of musings on the original pieces. Boasting the likes of Oneohtrix Point Never, Alva Noto, SURVIVE, Andy Stott as featured artists, there’s cohesion in their approach as they harness the basic melodies of the original record and obliterate them into completely new tracks with only slight murmurings of the compositions they use.

Arca completely reformed the title track. Replacing the violent orchestral arrangements of the original, Arca caws with his signature falsetto over the top of discordant electronic blips and harsh percussive pangs. Other tracks stay loyal to their sources of inspiration, such as Motion Graphic’s interpretation of ‘Fullmoon’, which keeps a similar structure to the original while expanding its scope. Whereas Jóhann Jóhannson’s take on ‘Solari’ is remarkably haunting, acting unintentionally as an elegy to himself after his tragic, untimely death, and Andy Stott’s ethereal rendition of ‘Life, Life’ closing the album, bringing this collection of reworks to a breathtaking end.

Although there may be some apprehension regarding a ‘remix’ album being made from what could be considered a modern classic, there’s an argument that these interpretations of Sakamoto’s solo venture provide alternative suggestions to the themes he was exploring. It does so with an emotional progression that feels as celebratory as it does meditative.

9/10