I first saw Japanese sound artist ASUNA live when he performed in Canberra about a year ago, where he spent an hour slowly coaxing intertwining drones from a veritable army of Casiotones, electronic toys and other cheap synths by using adhesive tape to hold down selected keys, the dense interplay of intersecting and shifting harmonies building into an immersive swell that filled the room before slowly receding back down into silence.
In truth, live performance is still probably the best medium to explore ASUNA’s music through, where the listener can move around the room and properly explore the ways in which the dense frequencies interact with structural features and natural echo. Having said that however, I’m surprised by just how vividly this album collaboration with German electronic producer (and Clicks n’ Cuts figurehead) Jan Jelinek recreates the aforementioned live sensory onrush.
For the five tracks collected here, Jelinek’s focused on providing rhythmically pulsating elements to complement ASUNA’s vast drones in the form of hypnotic loops and synths, with nothing approaching a beat in sight. In this case, increased volume reveals multitudes of new textural detail, and if you’re listening to this album in the background or quietly, you’re not really doing the duo’s dizzying structures justice.
Opening track ‘Relief Pt.1’ spends its 13 minute running length slowly weaving intertwining harmonics out of layers of drones into an ecstatically hypnotic wall, and indeed it’s not until the track’s closing section that Jelinek’s involvement becomes more apparent, the drones suddenly dying away, only to be replaced by more sinister dubbed-out background bass tones.
Elsewhere, ‘Pulsating Primary Structure’ more than lives up to its description as ebbing tones intersect with what sounds like background sounds of trickling water, the flashing textures rising into a vast blur of sound that gradually recedes into a swirl of looped melodic elements, before ‘How A Spiral Works’ sees a kaleidoscopic of tumbling melodic textures and warm undulating bass tones being slowly dragged out into more ominous waters as the looping sequences get modulated into more glassy tones and glitchy textures play at the edges of the mix, adding a slight undertone of treacherous uncertainty. Make sure there’s nowhere that you need to be in the next 50 minutes, turn this album up loud, and settle in.