Composer: Koji Asano.
Photographer: Koji Asano.
The logical next step after Violin and Viola Suites No. 1-No.7, perhaps? Featuring Ensemble Deneb (of which nothing is said about on the album jacket), this is a Baroque suite in five movements, written for recorder, oboe, violin, cello, and harpsichord. But one should not fall into the easy trap of calling this "Baroque music," because it is not. Listeners with a certain familiarity with the music of Bach will hear similarities (a middle section in "No.3," the beginning of "No.5"), but incongruities -- as far as Baroque music rules go -- take over throughout. Actually, Koji Asano displays a lot of creative subversiveness in this work. Go past the instrumentation, past the eighth notes, past the counterpoints and seemingly pastoral melodies, and you will realize that Baroque Ensemble No.1-No.5 is, once again, 100-percent pure Asano mystification. First, listen to the recording quality: two microphones set up in the middle of a very reverberant hall (a church, perhaps), with a relatively high level of hiss (or room ambience, if you prefer). This is typical of Asano: recording the room in which the music is being performed rather than the performance itself. Second, notice the lack of actual melodies. What appear to be melodies on first listen are actually abstracted melodic fragments, cleverly combined and repeated to form a Baroque texture, not so much different from harsh noise textures or computer-generated glitch loops. Finally, listen to the flow of the music: delicate interplay followed by frantic playing from all five musicians, forming blocks of solid music with plenty of repeating monochrome patterns slowly moving in and out of focus (especially in "No.1") -- that is basically what Asano was doing in minimalist sound art pieces like The Last Shade of Evening Falls, here applied to the vocabulary of Baroque music. Almost since his first album, Asano has been delivering enigma upon sonic enigma. This album is no different and, in fact, may be one of his most brilliant achievements. Don't file this in the Baroque section; it belongs to the Conceptual Art bin. ~ François Couture