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CD Feature/ Sawako: "Bitter Sweet"

img  Tobias
In a sense, every artist wants his music to exist out of time. Sawako has called “Bitter Sweet” a “muf muf sound cocoon for escaping the noisy, crowded wind” and from these words speaks the universal and undying desire of creating a proprietary musical space from scratch, whose clocks tick in a rhythm of their own. It is also an appropriate metaphor in other regards: The world doesn’t disappear when you’re inside the cocoon, but its signals are all but blocked out completely, leaving nothing but yourself and the music. As an immediate consequence of this approach, her third album truly manages to evoke a fragile environment outside of physical criteria, weaving its net of sonic gauze with a soothing needle and a consoling thread.

It is not an environment which comes completely without references or doesn’t allow for comparisons. Sawako’s “Summer Remix” project already hinted at a family of befriended and likeminded artists and her current collaboration with Japanese compatriot Daisuke Miyatani reveals quite a bit about the similarities of their philosophies: Using the world around you as a muse, appreciating what it teaches you and sifting out what touches you, recording the latter and reworking it into something beautiful in the studio. The demand of creating works of long-lasting value, of writing a diary in bloodred letters and of feeling behind the surface for something essential and eternal is as apparent on “Bitter Sweet” as it was on Miyazuke’s “Diario” – and makes one curious what the mutual acceptance of the other into their shrine of intimacy will sound like.

This sensation of intimacy is probably also the reason why so many have doted on the femine qualties of Sawako’s work. Without the slightest doubt, she favours intuition above intellect and organic development above organisational diagrams. If there is a logic to her music, then it iremains unspoken, just like giving a rose to someone is a metaphor for something which would fall apart at the seams if fully expressed. Her music is poetry not because of its delicacy and quietude, but for its prominent use of implications and associations, weighing each tone carefully and emphasising harmony instead of information.

On the other hand, it would be wrong to conclude that “Bitter Sweet” were without direction. What immediately strikes one is the absolute certainty and precision with which Sawako sketches these sonic paintings. And even though this is essentially a Drone album based on field recordings, she adds a distinct touch to each and every track: “Looped Labyrinth, Decayed Voice” leads the listener into a mellow maze of pristinely blurred outlines, a moment of utter tenderness captured in a ten-minute long sigh. “April – From Sea Shell” and “A Last Next” allow in Acoustic Guitar and even some hushed vocals, like dreaming in slowmotion in a sunlit park. “H u g b u g” moves cyclically, seemingly fading away into silently clattering noises in the middle, only to rise again with warm grace. While “Wind Shower Particle” is a cloudscape of long tonal threads, the inclusion of Cello and Violin suggests motion and tangibility on other occasions.

Most remarkably, the line between drones and field recordingsappears as an unsteady one here. Are both layers in their own right or mutually influencing each other? Are the environmental sounds the basis of all musical material here or merely a backdrop to the gradually developping ambiances? As could be expected, there is no clear resolution to this question, as all answers seem to apply simultaneously: “Utouto”, on which she partners up with Guitarist Ryan Francesconi, begins with snake-like fizzlings, quickly showered over by discreet broken chords and short melodic stabs, before slowing down to a finale of distant whails and bell sounds. In pieces like this, there is no fore- and background anymore, everything melts into a single, fluent texture of great density and warmth.

The constant and coherent rhythm of longer and shorter pieces creates a pulse of development and a distinct forward propulsion. And yet, the inner rest of “Bitter Sweet” all but cancels out this notion, coming to something of a complete standstill mid-way, freed from any sense of time. It is not an escapist- or Utopian vision, however: By picking up the microphone on the fluffy, but nonetheless very earthly last tune, Sawako signals that we can find this kind of calm in everyday life. There is something very optimistic and positively spirited about this message: Some day, the cocoon will have to break, but by then the catterpillar will already have turned into a brightly coloured butterfly.

By Tobias Fischer

Homepage: Sawako
Homepage: 12k Records

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