Circle Wind is constructed of field recordings from Hiroki Sasajima’s Tokyo home as well as Kanagawa, Nagano and Niigata. The aim of the release is to capture “feeble vibration and the passage of air” in some kind of delicate meditation. This is the centre of Sasajima’s work: to record sounds and present them in a way which ensures the listener considers their capture, their background.
The album succeeds on those terms, and it’s best listened to without distraction. The recordings aren’t slight, and there’s enough recorded so you won’t lapse into inattention if you have the disc on in the background. But to do so would be to ignore the transformation in focus you’ll undergo while listening.
Almost invariably, album tracks fade in at the beginning and out at the end, so even though the subject matter may differ (broadly speaking, from summery-sounding tracks of insects to mysterious clacks and darkened night tones) the way in and out of the sound-world is similar.
There’s not the remove we’d normally have with these sounds. Subtleties – droplets of rain – are recorded in such close proximity the mic distorts, we’re bludgeoned by the sounds, so it’s almost impossible to separate them from white noise. ‘Expanding Air’ is where nature overpowers the recordist’s gear with Merzbow-esque relish, with a wash of white noise to remind us who’s boss.
Certain tracks on the album appear to act as a daylight bulb does to those in lightless winters – as a way to stave off the season’s depressive chill by injecting a touch of summer to the gloom. It would be impossible to listen to ‘Village’ without feeling sweat on one’s neck, without searching for unseen insects. Tracks like ‘Shade Leaf’ bring to mind some of Seaworthy’s placidity, but with a less natural feeling of sound acquisition.
On the other side of the spectrum, ‘Calmness’ adds a touch of darkness to the disc. Clacking noises, and what appears to be slightly-echoed rain and resonant sounds threaten to overwhelm the listener’s hearing, but hover just below painful. The darker tracks aren’t quite as evocative as the insect-driven ones, though the close drawn by ‘Momentum’ certainly gives the listener an uneasy ending.
Curiously, the recordings here were all made between midnight and dawn. For a city-dweller, this knowledge is revelatory. The assumption made while listening to Circle Wind is that what’s being recorded was captured in the full flush of daylight, maybe dusk (at a pinch). To know such activity is occurring when we traditionally assume the world is quiet, at rest, is refreshing.