Ryuichi Sakamoto should be familiar to fans of several different strands of sound, having done crucial work as part of Yellow Magic Orchestra, some explorative collaborations with Fennesz, and many years of sensitive film soundtrack work. This most recent release falls into the latter camp, being the accompaniment to Yoji Yamada’s Nagasaki: Memories Of My Son. Lush and fully orchestrated. Released by Milan.
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As soon as the elegantly, sorrowfully swooping strains emerge from my headphones, listening to Ryuichi Sakamoto’s latest work reminds me how much he is a master of emotionally affecting music. The title track to Nagasaki: Memories of my Son -- a score to the film of the same name -- opens the album with those richly rewarding and bittersweet melodies. Just the premise of the film is enough to make me want to cry. Directed by Yoji Yamada, it tells the story of a mother whose son dies in the 1945 bombing of Nagasaki and visits her as a ghost for her remaining living days. Here is the elegiac and cathartic soundtrack to a heartbreaking story.
Sakamoto never resorts to the easy route to emotion nor sentimental cliche. Tones are constantly close to muted, stretched out, slow to unfold; never suddenly dramatic or plangent; the result is as far away from melodrama as imaginable. Notes have chasms of space, slowly vibrating and fading before moving on. Soft, meditative piano pieces (‘How Are You?’) mix with quiet but strong strings. The tension on those instruments is can’t be far shy of breaking point. Wisps of woodwind enter on ‘Raindrops’. It follows that the moments of noise, when they come, are all the more resonant and effective. There’s the harsh radio interference of ‘B29’. There’s big, scary drone on ‘Soul of the Dead Brother’. A rare moment of mournful vocal on the choral ‘Nobuko’ is a supremely poignant peak on a wonderful record.
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- Nagasaki: Memories Of My Son by Ryuichi Sakamoto
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