Album Reviews

Aoki Takamasa & Tujiko Noriko – 28

(Fat Cat) UK release date: 22 August 2005

This is an album that could disperse crowd trouble. Dangle a few speakers from helicopters over a baying mob and pop 28 into the CD deck and within minutes, the most hated of enemies will be hugging each other, apologising profusely, and gazing doe-eyed towards the sky.

By this time of course, the helicopter pilots will be hurling bags of scented petals from their windows, and as the petals get caught in the downdraft, they will form the shape of a heart before settling gently on the foreheads of the now appeased mob. That’s how dreamy this record is.

28 is an album that does for Japanese Electronica what Sigur Ros did for Icelandic post-rock. Although it was created via correspondence between Takamasa and Noriko (Takamasa being in Japan, Noriko in Paris) over a period of three years, it is nonetheless a perfectly realised record. Noriko’s voice floats effortlessly over the beeps and skronks, it’s more of an instrument than a simple vocal line.

Indeed much of this record finds similarities in the recent work of Bjork, particularly of that on her Vespertine album, and her tour with the sublime Matmos. Vinyl Words is a particularly pertinent example of this, finding Noriko gently whispering over ambient loops that chime like soothers in a baby’s cot. Alien, meanwhile is verging on being a pop tune. Albeit the quietest, most gentle pop tune you’ve ever heard.

As an exercise in ambient electronica you would have to look very hard to find a better example. This really is a beautiful record, it is truly spellbinding, like a sonic version of Spirited Away.

If this kind of music usually has you reaching for the remote control, you might just find yourself reaching for the superglue so that you can never get that CD tray open again. Although to be honest you’ll be so enchanted by the time you get halfway through opening track Fly2 it’ll be virtually impossible to do anything practical.

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Aoki Takamasa & Tujiko Noriko – 28