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Sawako: Brand New Fossil

img  Tobias Fischer

Close your eyes – what do you hear, what do you see? As the needle scans  grooves carved into see-through blue vinyl, everything around you - the stereo, the speakers and even the comfortable chair you're sitting on - begins to crumble and to be replaced by a more mysterious, more metaphorical, more meaningful world. The first sound strikes you like the steely fist of a boxer, knocking you down and sending you into darkness, where the images are clearer: A fright train passes by, pulling an endless chain of carriages. Footsteps, the rustling of a key being taken from someone's pocket. A rusty metallic door opening, squeaking, squirming, closing. Footsteps, stopping in their tracks, feeling their way forward. A sensation of emptiness, vastness, space stretching out into infinity. A distant din, sounds of the city, noises of cars, muffled signs of life. Far away bleeps, a railroad crossing perchance. Solitude returns, a short cut, a moment of silence, a transition, a second scene: The same feeling of all-enveloping nothingness and void - the same space, perhaps, but from another angle. The howling of wind, its layers overlapping, colliding, merging, creating disembodied melodies, barely perceptible harmonics. Clattering noises. Cut. The end.

2008, June. In an interview with me, Sawako says: „Without clarifying the context of 'talking about the old Japanese story about a rabbit and a moon' or 'talking about the scientific experiment on the moon with a rabbit', I can't answer some of these questions“. She is not being impolite. What she means, I think, is this: In the world of material objects, there is true and false, yes and no, one and zero. In the domain of sound, these polarities do not exist. One thing can be true and false at the same time. It can exist and perish. One can simultaneously acknowledge and negate it. She has just released a new album at the time, Bitter Sweet, and the space between the two words of its title is the space she loves to inhabit and roam the most. It separates two seemingly contradictory sensations, yet it also relates them to each other. It cuts a perfectly familiar adjective in half and in doing so sets free a subcutaneous tension. From an objective perspective, there's nothing there. Still, the sense of absence is more striking than the presence of what surrounds it. The work is successful, but in a way, it also confuses. For in these nine tracks, there is very much a beginning and an end, a point of departure and a destination, an A that invariably leads to a B. Her vocabulary is impeccible, associative and alluring. And yet, perhaps, one wonders, she would rather tell her stories without using any words at all.

2009, January. Sawako is walking through Coney Island and the premises of the former Astroland. She calls her work here collecting fossils. Only a few months earlier, this was still one of the country's most famous amusement parks, where parents would take their children in search of their own youth. Now, Astroland has been forced to close, the sad victim of ruinous financial deals and incompetence. There is nothing left, the happy hollers and excited shouts disappearing like memories breaking against the cliffs of time. But the noises which have gone and the sheer emptiness her microphone so precisely captures and which the first paragraph can only inadequately reproduce, are all the more intense. It is pervasive, frightning, ghostly and certainly of an entirely different nature than the signals Sawako captured roughly a year earlier, when she roamed the streets of Brooklyn with a self-built crystal radio, chasing the phantom broadcast of the city. The results will become the flipside to the Coney Island session, an atmosphere composed of warm, earth-coloured timbres, gentle pulsations and comforting sounds of birds and conversations. And yet, it ephemeral nature is just as unreal and otherworldly: A delicate drone, a couple of seconds of solitary sample-snippets separated by pure silence – then there is nothing more to say, the journey over, the needle back at its starting position.

2010, earth. How much can one express within just under eight minutes? How political can you be without speaking? What sense is there in listening to things that no longer exist? Brand New Fossil may seem to leave one with a lot of open ends. And yet, surely, on the moon, these questions do not make sense. Time, space, duration, continuity – these are primarily concepts of the mind, not the body. Presented with the right trigger, creativity and imagination can extend the shortest breath into endless landscapes. That is precisely what is happening on this 7inch. Seconds pass into days, days pass into an entire lifetime. Loose atoms coalesce into dense textures. Short scenes stretch out into infinity, into the space that follows after the music has disappeared. Words are unnecessary here, a whole new vernacular manifesting itself through allusion and association. There are few releases that can tell entire stories in the span of a few minutes and this is one of them. Open your eyes – and listen.

By Tobias Fischer

Homepage: Sawako
Homepage: Winds Measure Recordings

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