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Shinobu Nemoto: Melting Loop Trip

img  Tobias Fischer

It may be time for Shinobu Nemoto to start wearing wig and suit. At least 19th century critic E.T.A. Hoffmann, whose writings were seminally influential in defining the aesthetics and values of Western music for over two hundred years, would, with all likelihood, have appreciated Nemoto's willfulness as a great contribution to the proud romantic tradition. Just like Mozart's rejection by the Archibishop of Salzburg and Beethoven's retreat into deafness - widely held to be catastrophic events at their time - would posthumously come to be regarded as liberating, Nemoto's sublimation of his studio as a temple of spiritual elevation and personal expression appears to be part of refusing to draw a line between his life and his art. Considering the act of playing the guitar as the sonic equivalent of writing a diary, his works are the very definition of ambition, autonomy and absoluteness. Ignoring the demands and mechanisms of the market, his oeuvre epitomises the notion of creativity existing purely because from an inner need. After breaking through with a full-length on Experimedia in 2009, Nemoto has, over the past twenty four months, released a staggering amount of albums under his own name or the Summons of Shining Ruins alias, a veritable tour de force of craftsmanship, productivity and inspiration. Arriving in the wake of a series twelve (!) full-lengths dedicated to the art of improvisation, Melting Loop Trip is both a sum and summary and acme of a clearly defined period – as well as offering an alluringly idiosyncratic outlook into the future.

In a world like his, traditional borders between the acceptable and excessive are effectively pulverised: Already Nemoto's most recent releases, strongly related to each other through comparable approaches, intentions and philosophies, could, in a way, be regarded as constituting different movements of a single, intricately intertwined and vast work. Melting Loop Trip, released as a free download gift over Christmas, meanwhile, is an entire creative galaxy onto itself, comprising sixteen pieces and spanning roughly two and a half hours, 350MB and, on a limited physical edition of the album, four CDs of music. There are essentially only two kind of tracks here: Majestic, cathedral swells, on the one hand, slowly ascending from silence into the realm of the audible, expanding laterally and meditatively through time, before inconspicuously disappearing again. And, on the other, opaque, psychedelic atmospheres filled with abstract whirs and ghostly alien whispers, remotely resembling random SETI-recordings of cosmological radiation. The borders between the two, meanwhile, are fluid, the latter occasionally washed over by warm, pulsating tones and the former at times gradually mutating in terms of timbral quality - going from bronzen colours to darker, more ephemeral shadings, their formerly fixed fabrics dissolving into what Nemoto aptly calls „a fog“. This wisely chosen metaphor is, at the same time, a key to the understanding of the record as a whole, which works both as a to-the-point statement of the artist's perspective on drone music as well as a commentary of the state of the album in the age of digital dissemination.

Built on repeating sequences and processes, after all, these pieces are, by their very nature, static, almost visual in texture, the label suitably referring to them as 'beautiful analog pictures'. As so often with drone music, they could literally begin and end anytime and anywhere and the tendency of this kind of music of comfortably resting in time and space rather than moving through it, has often been interpreted as creative inertia, of it constituting a departure point for further sound explorations rather than an actual creative achievement. The power of Melting Loop Trip consists in the fact that Nemoto both acknowledges and disproves this theory. His insistence on only allowing his loops to blossom within the relatively narrow bandwidth of between six and a half and thirteen minutes is a clear indication in terms of equally recognising the compositional qualities and restrictions of these works. By, on the other hand, treating them to a technique of improvisation in the editing stages of the record, he takes them beyond the shores of mere pleasure, adding all but imperceptible breaks in symmetry to the continuum. The effect is a sensation of being completely washed over by sound. Rather than building a typical trance through a string of hypnotic repetitions, the music opens up into a seemingly endless continuum defined by a highly minimal palette of constituent elements, which are provoked to react and interact with each other in a potentially infinite amount of constellations.

At the same time, the work as a whole considerably gains in significance. By its very nature, Melting Loop Trip doesn't brutally rupture the traditional idea of an album as a collection of related compositions. It merely inflates it to epic dimensions. In the combination of, objectively speaking, inhuman vastness and a poignantly clear conceptual and sonic focus, this difference in scale turns into a difference in kind, Nemoto's melting processes dispersing a once stable canvas into a liquid ocean. As it has become, realistically speaking, all but impossible to actually take in the work from beginning to end, the act of listening turns from a passive, immobile one, to a ritual, which the audience, similar to a performance of one of Morton Feldman's long-form works or an Orthodox mass, can enter and leave at will. It thereby challenges the age-old assumption of a musical work as a fixed entity designed to be appreciated from beginning to end by the audience or else loose its meaning. Quite on the contrary, the listener is free to either keep the disc spinning in the background or to listen to it attentively here, tp choose a linear route or shuffle mode and leave the music on for its entire duration or to skip larger sections, without loosing out on the impact of the music or distorting its meaning.

The personal path of the listener and the personal path of the composer are one here, which turns Melting Loop Trip into a deeply gratifying experience. To someone like E.T.A. Hoffmann, to whom this freedom would have seemed like a voluntary surrender of a composer's authority, it would have presented an unforgivable step backwards. But it is this very insistence on choosing his own aesthetics which marks out Shinobu Nemoto as a singular voice on the scene. And he needs neither wig nor suit to prove it.

By Tobias Fischer

Homepage: Shinobu Nemoto
Homepage: Resting Bell Records

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