Release Date: Jul 30, 2012
Record label: Ghostly International
Ryuichi Sakamoto has a way with collaborators. His reflective and emotional piano compositions are timeless and seem tailor-made for an array of electronic treatments. Which is why, for an artist who began his career in the 1970s, he has remained so vital in this new musical era. Following successful collaborations with Alva Noto and Fennesz, in which each artist provided his signature sonics to a suite of piano melodies, Sakamoto moved to Ghostly International to work with label mainstay Christopher Willits, a graduate of Mills College’s prestigious electronic music program and a product of the 2000s lap-pop movement.
Ryuichi Sakamoto and Christopher Willits understand the importance of in-between spaces, those parts that principally function to serve the whole but often peel back to reveal tiny corners of fine-spun beauty. There are times on Ancient Future, the pair's follow-up to their 2007 collaboration Ocean Fire, when tracks slide into barely perceptible sound, only to gain a small foothold back into the lattice of muted piano clinks and computer-processed guitar strokes. That gentle sway between parts sometimes works as the dividing line between light and dark, or as the signal for far subtler shifts in tone and intonation.
Back in 2008, legendary Japanese pianist/composer Ryuichi Sakamoto and San Fransisco electronic improviser Christopher Willits teamed up to release a droning majesty, Ocean Fire. The two seemed to enjoy working together, as Sakamoto sent some ideas to his collaborator not long later. Over the course of the following four years, the two brewed those ideas into their second album as Willits + Sakamoto, Ancient Future, a deep-listening disc that drips with cold, dark intrigue.
This is the second album of collaborations between legendary pianist and composer Ryuichi Sakamoto and Bay Area experimental musician Christopher Willits; it consists of six subtle, slow-moving pieces, ranging from four to seven minutes in length. The album is based upon piano sketches that Sakamoto sent to Willits shortly after the release of their debut, 2008's Ocean Fire. Sakamoto's sharply tuned piano cuts through Willits's soothing soundscape of drone over a bed of static, creating a tension throughout the six pieces that underpins what would be an otherwise soothing, ambient work.