Koji Asano: The Last Shade of Evening Falls
(Solstice: 16, 17, 18 and 19)
Koji Asano (composition and realisation)
Regular readers will already be well aware of the excellent Koji Asano; his Solstice label continues to document his adventurous, varied and above all technically ingenious music. On this occasion, though, he's really pushed the boat out: four CDs, each one containing a single track of over an hour in length, representing what might roughly be called the four movements of "The Last Shade of Evening Falls", a sort of enormous, post-modern organ symphony of gobsmacking invention.
It's not that there's an actual organ involved (at least, there doesn't seem to be), but the whole structure of the music somehow recalls that repertoire, and especially its post-war incarnation. This is helped along by the fact that the sounds are often organ-like, but there's more to it than that. The music's constituent parts -- its independent, rather flluffy bass, the chords which seem to come from somewhere high in the rafters, notes which erupt only to vanish again -- closely parallel the traditional vocabulary of the organ solo.
The music is monumental and unashamedly atmospheric, reverberating in a vast (synthetic) space and unfolding with graceful slowness. Everything is poised, sculptural. There's certainly none of the aural violence of "A Secret Path of Rain" here; this music has a strongly ecclesiastical feel, one which a more modern term like "meditative" doesn't really capture. It's almost Gothic in its crepuscular dramas. One wants to listemn to it by candlelight, in a stiff draft, while sitting on a hard wooden pew.
The fact that Asano can compose something so long which can hold your attention is alone very impressive. This writer must confess to not having had the time to listen to it in one go, but doing so would be a rewarding experience. Each individual hour is filled with an entirely unsentimental beauty, underpinned by a sound, logical architectural sense. He tells stories and builds a structure at the same time. There's something almost mediaeval about all this.
And yet there's also something ultra-modern. The organ isn't an organ but something else. Hard to tell what, exactly; something which can wobble around as if underwater or break down into static as if on the radio. The whole thing is a simulacrum of an organ voluntary during which the flow of time has slowed down to an ooze, resonating a facsimile of the air inside a cathedral. Like everything the composer has released of late, although on a mind-bogglingly larger scale, this is verging on genius. To repeat what has been said here several times before, Asano is a creator of strong, sometimes demanding music which deserves to be much better known.Richard Cochrane