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Ryuichi Sakamoto


Regular price
$125.00 SGD
Regular price
Sale price
$125.00 SGD


Nearly a decade removed from his initial diagnosis and more than five years on from async, Sakamoto has continued making music, even as his battle with cancer persists. His latest album, 12, was written and recorded during the course of an especially difficult 13 months. After being diagnosed with rectal cancer at the height of the pandemic—“From now on, I will be living alongside cancer,” he announced—Sakamoto retreated from public life, and the disease escalated to stage four in 2022. Nevertheless, he began hosting occasional instrumental livestreams as part of his “Playing the Piano” series, for which he performed career-spanning material in short takes that were edited together into virtual concerts. Following his 2020 and 2022 livestreams—the former was later released as a live album—12 wades further into the emotional landscapes that defined async.

A collection of ambient etudes for piano and synthesizer, the album is strikingly minimal in its arrangements. Tracks are titled and sequenced in the order in which they were committed to tape, lending the album a diaristic feel. (Only the final cut, an atmospheric, minute-long recording of tinkling bells, is presented out of order.) The pieces move softly through space and time, emphasizing the reverberant textures of the room in which they were recorded. “20210310” opens with a bristling synth tone that grows and expands slowly, alternating between high and low notes that brush up against the thresholds of human hearing in each direction. The piece rises and falls with a clear contrapuntal arc that never resolves into a melody. Others, like “20220202” and “20220214,” are similarly atmospheric, made up of raw, unvarnished sounds; they feel more like demos than the focused interventions of Sakamoto’s past solo records.

In addition to the weight of the room around him, you can also feel the presence of the composer himself. A steady pulse of strained breathing persists across many pieces, driving home the image of Sakamoto seated at the keyboard. “20211201” begins with the sound before introducing a piano melody draped in a foggy reverb reminiscent of Harold Budd, and the sibilant texture continues across much of the album. Against the backdrop of his carefully sculpted piano lines, the inclusion of Sakamoto’s breathing feels deliberate, quietly reminding listeners of his health. - Pitchfork 

Label:  Commmons 
Format:  Vinyl, LP, Album 
Country:  Japan 
Released:  Jan 2023 
Genre:  Electronic, Classical 
Style:  Ambient, Modern Classical