Review Summary: Because we don't know when we will die, we get to think of life as an inexhaustible well.
Last April, Ryuichi Sakamoto put out what was a career-defining record with Async
; it was a record that garnered praise for its blunt perspective on the concept of mortality and its creator struggling with the notion of his own potential demise. But most of all, Async
album; the one you'd never forget: the fabled classic. Excuse me for how pretentious this will inevitably sound, but I wasn't entertained by the stark textures nor the melancholic themes; instead, I was in the midst of an experience, the type of life-changing encounter with an album that you can't shake no matter how long you go without listening to it. That's what Async
was to me, and to see it receive the remix treatment was something I welcomed all too cautiously, lest I wanted to go right into Async - Remodels
with the immediate expectation that I'd be listening to a bastardization of Sakamoto's music.
Yet when I look at the roster of the artists that signed on to put Sakamoto's fatalistic songs in a new perspective, there was the distinct possibility that Remodels
would turn out to be a wonderful companion record, which it should be obviously viewed as. Casting aside the glaring omission of some of the more field recording-oriented pieces from the original record, the selections made are appropriate; Oneohtrix Point Never and Electric Youth's reworkings of "Andata" both introduce Remodels
, and whether it be with Onoehtrix's faithful interpretation or the Yellow Magic Orchestra throwback of Electric Youth's version, these cuts both are encouraging, although incredibly jarring from the standpoint of someone who has grown accustomed to the Christian Fennesz-accompanied original. For a matter of fact, a few of Sakamoto's collaborators are present on Remodels
, such as Fennesz with an adequate rendition of "Solari" and Alva Noto with a captivating version of "Disintegration."
at worst does indeed bastardize Sakamoto's intentions, as Arca did with "Async," but the willingness to deviate from the original composition – and adding lush vocalizations and beats in their place – is a prime component of what makes Remodels
more than a simple throwaway remix album. "Async" originally was such a violent orchestral piece unique to its parent album, so with Arca's revision, even with the feeling that it's one of the weaker pieces of Remodels
, it perfectly demonstrates the ability to deconstruct someone's else work and create something else out of what is left over. Motion Graphics' rendition of "Fullmoon" is one of the more fulfilled cuts of the record, both remaining similar in structure to the source material, but allowing the song to expand its scope and into the definitive version of the track. Haunting enough is the late Johann Johannsson's take on "Solari;" it is as beautiful as it is powerful, an unintentional elegy to one's self, especially to the composer whose life was cut much more shortly than any of us ever expected.
Even as the concept of Async
is blurred within the murky depths of Remodels'
songcraft destruction, the lingering sense of dread is now augmented with the emerging sensation of revival. Yves Tumor's "Zure" is a powerful performance of Sakamoto's barren soundscape, transforming the composition into an atmospheric build of rhythm and chants; if this doesn't signal a defiant revival on Sakamoto's behalf, what else could" And on Andy Stott's remodel of "Life, Life," the ominous percussion that leads the piece into a ethereal journey is astounding and nothing short of breathtaking. If Async
was an album centered on the genesis of its creator's suffering and recovery, Remodels
is the triumph over the odds put up against Sakamoto and his way of continuing to share his life's work with the world through the lens of his disciples and his contemporaries.