Ryuichi Sakamoto
12


5.0
classic

Review

by DadKungFu STAFF
January 19th, 2023 | 56 replies


Release Date: 01/17/2023 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Fermata, and then...

The awareness of nonbeing is unique to humans. To face life authentically, is, in a very real way, to confront one’s own eventual nonbeing. Some of the great acts of creation have been borne out of the recognition of human finitude, the frailty with which we pass in and out of this life in the span of a cosmic instant.

Greatness isn’t always apparent. The self-penned elegy that was Blackstar was met with both acclaim and bemusement over the space of a weekend, until its creator revealed his final bow to be one of his great acts as an artist, the work unveiled a second time. 12 isn’t like that, although its greatness isn’t always apparent. Foremost, it’s not an elegy. It’s too concerned with being, with the present moment for that. And its unveiling is within itself.

The collection of pieces presented here are titled simply with the date of their creation, presented in chronological order. It is a document of time’s passage and that with which a solitary man with life in mind can fill it.

In the space between notes, one hears Sakamoto’s breathing, a document of a life in passage, a statement of human presence, of life persisting. A field recording of music, more than an album in the conventional sense. I believe that to hear this as a conventional album is to miss much of its substance.

The music on 12 isn’t overdubbed or multitracked. On much of the album, one hand plays the piano, one hand the synthesizer. The musician breathes. These minutes of solitude, clearly denoted, filled with sound, which the composer has elected to share with us.

The prevailing mood of 12 is one of acceptance and serenity, and a quiet joy. Everything is stripped to its barest essence, as though Sakamoto is seeking out and savoring each moment, reducing it to a single element, holding it up to the light to be admired as each approaching second appreciates in value, out of increasing scarcity.

Greatness isn’t always apparent. The possibility that a collection of deceptively simple pieces for piano and synthesizer could reflect greatness is tied intimately with its creator’s place in the world at its conception. To separate art from artist is to kill the soul of both.

Ryuichi Sakamoto has battled cancer for almost a decade now, and his artistic output has increasingly entangled itself with this battle, with this theme of mortality and of confrontation with it.

The composer Alfred Schnittke’s gravestone is marked simply with the musical notation for a fermata, a pause of indeterminate length, above a whole rest, to be played at triple forte. A deafening silence. It may be that 12 is Sakamoto’s attempt to deny that silence, and to reflect upon it.

The chimes that are the album’s coda, musical sounds removed from the hands that created them, sounds that resonate through time independent of their creator, speak to the theme of recording as document. This album will sound its own chimes long after Sakamoto has left us, though it’s hoped that they will persist together for many years.

As I finished these thoughts, my children, having just finished breakfast, climbed onto my lap. We began flipping through the many family photos we’ve taken on my phone while 12 played, an iridescent murmur in the background, a document of a life, a document made into a gift. For just a few minutes the stress and care that entangles this life fell away into reflection, into the stillness of the present instant. There are moments in life the joy of which could make me weep. This was one of them.

Thank you, Mr. Sakamoto.



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user ratings (67)
3.7
great


Comments:Add a Comment 
DadKungFu
Staff Reviewer
January 19th 2023


4703 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Hope I justified my 5 without getting too pretentious or maudlin about the whole thing. This moved me in ways few albums ever have.

Sunnyvale
Staff Reviewer
January 19th 2023


5821 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Review is incredible, pos'd!

JohnnyoftheWell
Staff Reviewer
January 19th 2023


60191 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Beautiful write-up, covers the ontological and personal sides of this perfectly without getting to laborious about either. Thought this was absolutely devastating on my first spin (felt like a diarist snapshot of fading life, as opposed to Async's wonderful affirmative glimpses of meaning in chaos) but am looking forward to going back to it a whole lot more with these rev-thoughts in mind. Deeply powerful album in any case

AlexTM510
January 19th 2023


1471 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Amazing review my guy, love that last paragraph. Been listening to this on my drives home, such a peaceful record despite the dark context. The weight of his old bandmate passing away I feel like adds an extra weight to this album.

Demon of the Fall
January 19th 2023


33526 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Whoa, high praise…



I thought this was rather good, but will reconsider my perspective to this fine review (once I’ve read it through properly)

someone
Contributing Reviewer
January 19th 2023


6556 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

Oh yeah!

MiloRuggles
Staff Reviewer
January 19th 2023


3021 Comments


Touching review, big pos. Didn't know this came out, will be jammin today

Zig
January 19th 2023


2747 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

great review. hope to check more Sakamoto this year

Calc
January 19th 2023


17330 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

aw nice. no idea this was a thing.

Dewinged
Staff Reviewer
January 20th 2023


32013 Comments


Beautiful review, definitely checking this.

heyadam
January 20th 2023


4394 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

really touching review, def pos. albums like this one really are a gift

Dewinged
Staff Reviewer
January 20th 2023


32013 Comments


Hearing him marking the beat with his breathing is something else.

dedex
Staff Reviewer
January 20th 2023


12774 Comments

Album Rating: 3.7 | Sound Off

gotta read that bc Ryuichi is pog

Pho3nix
January 20th 2023


1585 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Nice rev.



I actually like this much more than Async - there's a sense of impending doom here

DoofDoof
January 20th 2023


14940 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

The best bits of Async I probably like more than anything off this...but overall I prefer this album to Async.

insomniac15
Staff Reviewer
January 20th 2023


6168 Comments


Lovely review! The album is great, I didn't listen to Sakamoto's records until now, except the collaboration with Fennesz. Will check his discography.

Demon of the Fall
January 20th 2023


33526 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Thousand Knives Of is like a vision from the future, still cannot believe the release date



'The best bits of Async I probably like more than anything off this...but overall I prefer this album to Async' (2)



yeah, probably how I'm currently feeling about this

Prancer
January 20th 2023


1593 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

this review is beautiful, doesn't come off as pretentious at all. I happened to read it as I was listening to the album and I thought the short paragraph format complimented the sparse structure of the music. also, clever making this 12 paragraphs.

Calc
January 20th 2023


17330 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I'm down now.

ChaoticVortex
January 20th 2023


1580 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Beautiful review



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