Minamo: Durée

In eight pieces shaped from extended improv sessions into final compositional form, Minamo members Yuichiro Iwashita, Namiko Sasamoto, Keiichi Sugimoto, and Tetsuro Yasunaga blend sounds generated via multiple means (acoustic and electric guitars, keyboards, saxophone, bells, harmonium, analog synthesizer, percussion, pedals, computer) into supple electroacoustic settings of great nuance and delicacy. Though the instruments deployed are both analog and digital, the latter dominates in Durée's case: one more readily pictures the members hunched over guitars than gazing intently upon laptop screens. More often than not, the album's serene sounds follow upon one other in a natural, uninterrupted flow, rather than being stitched together via digital processing. That the group should be able to so naturally perform in real-time is attributable to some degree to the fact that Minamo has existed since 1999 as a two-piece live improvisation band and since 2001 as a quartet. As a result, the four operate telepathically in carving out a shared path for the piece in question, one that typically unfolds patiently like a multi-limbed organism forming itself before the listener's ears.

If Durée, Minamo's follow-up to its last 12k outing, Shining, seems to exude a time-suspending quality, that can be explained in part by the title, which derives from French philosopher Henri-Louis Bergson's concept of “pure durée,” the idea that consciousness should properly be characterized as constant, immeasurable flow rather than something rooted in a linear conception of time. Consequently, the material on Durée attempts to transcend notions of conventional space and time, despite being material that can't help but unfold in time (forty-five minutes of it, in this case). Despite the impossibility of realizing such a goal, Minamo does establish some sense of timelessness in its material. In “Elementary Domain,”  stillness does pervade its patient unfolding of harmonium and guitar elements, and the other settings do much the same using other combinations of acoustic and synthetic sounds. “First Breathing At Last” perhaps incarnates the idea most of all in peppering its central drone with a steady intertwine of guitar, harmonium, and synthesizer detail. In similar manner, sparse accents of piano and acoustic guitar flutter alongside a swell of harmonium interjections during “Help Ourselves”; in contrast, the electric guitar presents itself in an almost lead solo-like capacity against a streaming backdrop of electrical tonalities in “When Unwelt Melts.” Despite such differences, Durée, meditative in spirit and subtle in design, is in many respects quintesssential 12k.

February 2010