compiled by Nicholas
email: ndkent "at" optonline.net
Last updated 05.11.17
(*) means I don't
own this album
(@) means I've listened to this album but don't own one
a couple odds and
ends by Derek Higgins marked by "DH:"
and a few by Yosuke Morimoto ("YM:")
and some clarification by Jonas Wårstad who has his own discography
and some info from Axel Poque and David McKenzie
Sakamoto before 1984 page
Sakamoto Albums 1984-1994
1995 güt/For Life cd:. FLGC-3014 , Milan/BMG (US 1997) 35789-2
I have a more expensive limited edition photo book/cd version of this album.FLCG-3015
YM translated the Japanese track names. A number of tracks have a bit of a bosanova feel. More interesting than Sweet Revenge. A variety of styles. Even cheesy retro sounds. Not a favorite, but an okay listen. The US title seems to be RYUICHISAKAMOTOSMOOCHY the US bookletequivalent to 16 pages is filled with only credits! Again all the lyrics are omitted (let alone the translations of them!) Strangely there was more than enough space in the booklet to print them but instead we get his art director's sort of varriation on Neville Brody graphic design filling the entire foldout. I find this really annoying since its the biggest foldout (as compared to bound) CD booklet I've seen and its only the basic credits and not even innovative typography. This is, so far, Sakamoto's last solo pop album.
(@) 1996 güt/for life FLCG-3018
Contains 6 mixes of 2 tracks. I've listened to it. Nothing out of the ordinary.
1996 gütbounce cd GTBC-0001
an almost 36 minute piano composition in a variety of styles. Sounds improvised but makes for a good listen if you like solo piano. Sakamoto has a new label, gütbounce in collaboration with Tower Records (Japan). He put out several less commercial projects on it, but now has left. Out of print.
Ivar de Vries writes:
This short disc contains music for a show by fashion designer Yohji Yamamoto and is the first indication of the basic, classically-inspired style adopted by Ryuichi Sakamoto over the next few years as shown on later releases such as 1996 and BTTB.
Fellow former YMO member Yukihiro Takahashi also did the music for two Yamamoto shows around this time and Ryuichi Sakamoto on this album follows suit with a beautiful and tranquil piano piece, totally unlike the music usually heard at fashion show events.
After a short six-minute intro where the piano-sounds are electronically modified (to probably set up what must be the show's eerie atmosphere) the main thirty-minute piece begins. In it one can recognise the A-B-A sonata form known from classical music - this could be accidental although it should certainly be known to Sakamoto who actually got a degree in music from a Tokyo university in the seventies (after which he acquired the nickname "Professor" from his pop-music friends). As a consequence the piece divides into three sections each totalling some ten minutes where the first section consists of a dialogue between two themes (one fast, the other slow) which both return in somewhat stormier fashion in the third section. Inbetween stands a thoughtful slow section, which has a rather grave theme - it hints at a crisis to which the third section then brings resolution through its succession of noble chords. In keeping with the sonata form, the slow themes from all sections return towards the end in a final coda.
All this becomes apparent only after repeated listening but does help to understand the piece, which could otherwise sound unstructured. People who like straight piano-music will in all likelihood appreciate this album, which makes for a nice listen.
1996 güt/for life FLCG-3020 , Milan (U.S.)
* not on the U.S. edition. The European edition also lacks a Japanese track, though has more than the U.S. edition.
These are new arrangements for a piano, violin and cello trio. RS plays piano. Quite interesting and neo-classical. Very well recorded. Lots of energy on the more dynamic pieces. Be warned-- this is about as far from a synth-pop album as you can get.
Ivar de Vries writes:
'1996' continues the basic style introduced
on 'Music For Yohji Yamamoto Collection'
and presents a couple of new pieces alongside acoustic arrangements of well-known
older pieces making them sound like they've never been heard before. All pieces
are performed by a trio naturally featuring Ryuichi Sakamoto on
piano, Jacques Morelenbaum on cello
and either Everton Nelson or
David Nadien (on two tracks only) on violin. They would also take
the album out on a world-tour during 1996. A few years later the concept of
this album would be expanded to orchestra on the 'Cinemage' tour
In the classical music world this chamber-music combination of instruments is known as notoriously risky - there's nowhere for the musicians to hide so they have to be spot on and really listen to each other, the instruments have to be well-tuned not just individually but in company and the arrangements have to be excellent in order for the music to "work". Well, Ryuichi Sakamoto is no stranger to good arrangements and, apart from some hairy moments (like in 'Bibo No Aozora') he again proves himself here and must be complimented on taking this risk at all.
Nelson and especially Morelenbaum already worked on the earlier, more pop-oriented album 'Smoochy' - in fact, two pieces ('Bibo No Aozora' and 'Aoneko No Torso') are arrangements from tracks on that album. Two other pieces are new: the short opening track and the harsh but interesting '1919' which was also released on CD-single. The tracks 'M.A.Y. In The Backyard' and 'A Tribute To N.J.P.' come from 1984's 'Illustrated Musical Encyclopaedia' with ready-made arrangements, the other six pieces are fresh arrangements of more or less famous Sakamoto movie-pieces.
Sakamoto is known to like the music of French composers like Claude Debussy (1862-1918), a fact which manifests itself more clearly here than on any other of his albums. The music has the same sparse but poetic quality to it - it's got nothing whatsoever to do with the (electronic) music he was renowned for before but if you like something else for a change or perhaps this particular combination of instruments, you could do worse than trying out '1996'.
Andrew * adds
"a day a gorilla gives a banana" is not a new track, but a piano trio arrangement of a piano and horn duo originally titled "animal" that ryuichi sakamoto composed for a parco-fay danaway commercial in 1979. the original track can be heard on the recent compilation cd "cm-tv," and a live version can also be heard on 1986's media bahn live, already retitled as "a day a gorilla gives a banana." sakamoto was evidently fond of this short, jazzy theme. only 1919 was originally composed for the trio - i think they even recorded a music video.
see my live section for the live mini album info
El Mar Mediterrani
1997 gütbounce CD5 single GTBC-0004
Sakamoto's Barcelona Olympics music from 1992. EP length, approx. 13 minutes. This is solid music in a big bold orchestral style. Because of the date, this is Sakamoto music I find more interesting than his latest work. Out of print. A new different recording is contained on Cinemage.
1997.2.21 güt/for life CD3: FLCF-3680
A TV drama series. A blend of workstation ROM-plers with some acoustic instruments. The theme appears in many varriations. The music moves from light pop to jazz with some characteristic RS string work. Yoshiuki Sahashi plays guitars through out. He did not write the theme, but co-writes the rest with Sakamoto. Some cool moments, pleasant except for a frightening bit or two. I was surprised that RS would do something so typical of 90s Japanese TV style music. Probably out of print.
1997.1.29 güt/for life CD3: FLDG-1007
It made top 10 on the Japanese singles charts. A light pleasant J-Pop melody sung in English. Sister M is actually RS's teenage daughter Miu who sings here in english. (Miki Nakatani has done a version of this tune with Japanese lyrics that I don't think have any connection with the series, its on her album Cure)
cure - miki nakatani
This is a bonus disc included in Miki Nakatani's album, Cure (FLCG-3030), which RS produced and wrote much of the music for. The bonus disc does not contain her and is billed as a work by RS. It's very much in keeping with the güt bounce releases. On it are 2 mixes. The first has a languid piano performance on top of synthetic ambient electronics. The second mix has no piano, just the ambient abstract electronics. An interesting piece somewhat reminicent to Vangelis' Memories of Green, though much longer and less song-like, more improvised. Each mix is slightly over 30 minutes long.
1998 Hollywood (USA) HR-62155-2, (Japan - same contents) PHCL-3511, CTCW-53010 (2001 Japan reissue)
Huge detailed glitering mostly orchestral soundtrack. Has echos of Bernard Herrmann who worked with director Brian De Palma in the 1970s. Igor Stravinsky too. Not that it isn't quite identifiable as a Sakamoto composition throughout.
Ivar de Vries writes:
Snake Eyes is the soundtrack to a run-of-the-mill Hollywood thriller by Brian de Palma which concerns unraveling the mystery surrounding an assassination. Ryuichi Sakamoto provides a conventional orchestral soundtrack to which the nowadays obligatory pop-songs are added, one by rockstar Meredith Brooks and one by soulstar LaKiesha Berri.
Sakamoto's music for this project is rather run-of-the-mill as well, most of it being standard Bernard Herrmann Hitchcock-movie-type stuff. Tracks like Tyler and Serena and The Storm are actually rather enjoyable examples of this genre, whilst the title-track more or less stands up there with the likes of the Sheltering Sky and Last Emperor main themes, providing some emotional depth. All good standard stuff, nothing special but probably hard to get hold of in the future, although already a second release has seen the light of day. An interesting moment appears in the middle of Tyler and Serena, which sounds like it comes straight out of Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence.
It is quite unbelievable that Sakamoto almost simultaneously worked on another completely different soundtrack (the one to Love is the Devil) - he must use some composer's analogue to method acting or something to get into the right mood.
1998 Asphodel (USA) Asph 0987, (Japan - same contents) TFCC-87617
28 often quite short and avant garde tracks of music for a British film based on a period in the life of painter Francis Bacon. I haven't seen the film yet but the director, John Maybury used the quite original technique of shooting distorted and warped live action to evoke the painter's art which couldn't be photographed for copyright reasons. In some ways the score reflects this approach. Its spare, avant, often acoustic material often heavily manipulated electronicaly. Lots of short cues and general spare avant-ness make it kind of tough general listening, though might inspire some darker creativity.
Ivar de Vries writes:
The soundtrack to a small art-house movie about avant-garde English painter Francis Bacon (not to be confused with the 17th-century crackpot philosopher), 'Love Is The Devil' provides suitably avant-garde music. Certainly one of the most adventurous albums in Ryuichi Sakamoto's oeuvre, it is completely electronic apart from some shrill piano-sounds at various points. Its excellent sound-production is very much tailored to enhancing the claustrophobic scenes of the movie. The movie consists of a series of miniature scenes that together depict an episode in the life of the painter, which means on the album the music tracks have been ordered and given titles accordingly and are also mostly on the short side. Put together they make the album sound like one 45-minute piece, rather like Sakamoto did on the soundtrack to 'Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence'.
Bacon (1909 1992) was by all accounts a complex and emotionally depraved man who expressed his morbid fantasies about human bodies into his paintings and the movie plus music reflects this. It uses harsh industrial sounds and plenty of experimental special effects to accompany the nightmarish thoughts of Bacon and his lover, living their hedonistic lives in the midst of London's artistic underbelly during the 1950s, but there are some moments of harmony as well. In the movie a number of songs from that period are also used, mostly during smoky bar-scenes.
This is an interesting excursion from Sakamoto's usual soundtrack work (for example 'Snake Eyes' released just prior) and certainly recommendable, but not an album and film for the faint-hearted.
98.11.26 deluxe version WEA cd: WPC6-8524, regular version 99.02.24 (*): WEA cd: WPC6-10010
Back To The Basics. This is a CD of Sakamoto playing new classical compositions for solo piano. He attributes Debussy and Satie for inspiration. I hear a lot of the RS's sensibility from the Bertolucci scores. A couple pieces have electronics processing the piano, so its not that basic :) Sill, it is a solo piano album. There are two versions and fortunately or unfortunately there is something each has going for it, making it frusterating.
the deluxe version comes in a double height box and contains the score to almost all the pieces and a floppy of MIDI files containing a sizable part of the album taken from RS's actual performance. Edition of 50,000 Cost: 6800 yen
the regular version comes in a thin cardboard sleeve but contains 2 bonus tracks not on the deluxe version. Regular CD price. I think the tracks are Tong Poo (a YMO cover) and a piano version of Snake Eyes
This album was internationally released in 2/2000 by Sony Classical. There was an additional bonus track. (I've not heard this version) and to confuse things many copies were issued without the bonus by accident though the error was fixed later. Don't ask me, I just bought the shorter expensive deluxe Japanese one and didn't want to keep buying albums to get a track here, another there.
He's since done orchestral and chamber song arrangements of some of these pieces for Miki Nakantani and Miu Sakamoto. Their singles also contain versions without the vocals so they are de facto his solo instrumentals. (I'm still trying to compile a list of it all)
Ivar de Vries writes:
The album-title stands for Back To The Basics and this little phrase sums up nicely what Ryuichi Sakamoto has been doing for the few years leading up to BTTB, as evidenced by earlier releases such as 1996 and Discord. Apart from a few strange percussion pieces (played on a so-called "prepared piano"), the album consists of straight piano pieces which I suppose could equally well have been written a hundred years ago and betray a certain French classical influence.
This is really thoughtful music and Sakamoto (evidently having left behind his playful YMO/earlier solo days) even approaches Vangelis' piano-pieces in emotional depth here. Fine examples in this regard are the beautifully melancholic 'Intermezzo' and the surprising #1 hit-single 'Energy Flow', plenty of other tracks are equally good. Sakamoto again shows us his considerable expertise at playing the piano and, to get maximum effect out of the material, makes cunning use of the age-old tricks available to pianists: subtle variations in dynamics and tempo, as in fact Vangelis does so well (it won't happen, but it would be a fine challenge for him to do an album like this, for us to be able to compare their respective piano-playing skills). And Ryuichi Sakamoto can do it live as well, judging from his 1999/2000 world-tour.
The wealth of melodic material has been put to good use in further releases. The international BTTB release on Sony Classical is actually the third one. The original 1998 Japanese version only had 14 tracks and also appeared in a box-set edition with some pieces in MIDI format on a diskette and printed sheet music. The February 1999 version added two bonus-tracks (piano-versions of the theme to the 1998 movie 'Snake Eyes' and old YMO favourite 'Tong Poo'). Summer 1999 saw the release of the Japanese hit CD-single Ura BTTB containing a further 3 tracks. The final release on Sony Classical more or less merges all these earlier versions (but leaves out 4 tracks) and adds yet another new track: 'Reversing'.
Furthermore, for those who don't like piano-music, a 1999 release by Sakamoto protegee Miki Nakatani (called Shiseikatsu) has some BTTB tracks in electronic J-pop arrangements.
And finally, for those who can't get enough of piano-music, classical pianist Chitose Okashiro has recorded, with Sakamoto's blessing, many BTTB pieces on her Pro Piano disc, along with world-premieres of other pieces.
99.5.26 cd5 single: WPC6-10022
3 track single that made it to the top on the Jpop charts. It seems to be a TV commercial theme. All tracks are BTTB style.
released worldwide in 2000 along with BTTB. Its a recording made from some recent concerts with orchestra of his best known orchestral works mostly from the Cinema (with his Barcelona Olympic music being the non-film exception) The album notes do not give many details as to where the recordings originated, but I found an ugly and crooked anti theft device permantly stuck on the inside of the case. I belive he was doing a series of live Playing The Orchestra type concerts so he took the orchestra into the studio to record this album. (because of the micing and lack of live concert noise).
Andrew * disagrees
cinemage is a compilation
album of live recordings from the 1997 japanese tour f. I don't
think it was recorded in the studio.
2000 Warner also U.S. and a French release emphasizing its French title Tabou
Gohatto a new soundtrack for a film by Oshima. Somewhat avant-garde in style though not as atonal as Love is the Devil.
Ivar de Vries writes:
One would think that, with the performance and subsequent release of his ambitious opera 'Life' in September 1999, Ryuichi Sakamoto would close out the 20th century. Not so because, workaholic as he is, another soundtrack lasting well over an hour is produced in a matter of months, this time for a Japanese period costume-film located in the 19th century called 'Gohatto', later released internationally as 'Taboo', a reference to its gay theme. For Sakamoto it meant a second collaboration with director Nagisa Oshima, after 'Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence'.
But it's definitely not a rush-job as it has the sort of detailed texture also associated with the earlier soundtrack to 'Love Is The Devil', which means electronic ambient backgrounds coupled to high piano-sounds, this time joined by a razor-sharp string ensemble and a few other acoustic instruments. Compared with 'Love Is The Devil' however, 'Gohatto' is a bit more melodic and also more Japanese in feel. It often evokes the delicacy of those well-kept Japanese gardens, not least because of the crystal-clear production.
Sakamoto again employs the device used before by him and other movie-composers of coming up with a memorable melodic theme which keeps reappearing in different guises. It all culminates in the 'End Theme' after which Sakamoto puts down what was probably the initial inspiration in a solo piano-piece. It also ends the central and what appears to be the spiritual high-point of the album: 'Supper' which starts off with what sounds like a bunch of Buddhist monks chanting away.
This is all pretty serious music and bound to disappoint old-time Sakamoto fans who like his YMO and/or eighties period better. On the other hand, music like this can be appreciated as beautiful in an abstract sort of way and is consistent with Sakamoto's musical direction since 1996 of becoming a more serious composer and attracting new audiences. In the late nineties, it was only in the side-projects with the likes of Miki Nakatani and his daughter Miu that the Sakamoto of earlier times manifested himself.
This piano-based theme was a CD5 single
Includes Sakamoto's theme track, electronica artist Hanno wrote the remainder of the soundtrack. I think there is a variation or 2 on the single that is not included here
(@) 2000 Warner (Japan)
Slightly light and defnitely synth-based music meant for games. A break in his back and forth between neo-classical and avant electronics.
Ivar de Vries writes:
Lack Of Love is a short album containing the music for a video game created by a friend of Ryuichi Sakamoto. According to an interview he set out not to make typical "game-music" (as he would probably describe the short tracks on YMO's first album), but the music is playful enough, with for example little music box and accordion pieces. It's also his first electronic album for many years, without any guest-musicians, just him on his synthesizers.
The music was quickly put together in the wake of the last BTTB concert-tour and consists mainly of a series of miniatures, capped by opening and ending versions of another of those grandiose movie-themes Sakamoto conjures up once in a while. The only longer piece is 'Artificial Paradise', meant to evoke a day in the life of some faraway place, which has slowly evolving synth-tapestries set against some gentle, but lively techno beats plus brass-sounds. There's something for everyone here: beautiful dreamy nostalgia in 'Dream' and 'Unity', harsh pounding piano chords on 'Crisis' and 'Decision'. The highlight comes near the end: 'Change' has that unsettling atmosphere of "quiet before the storm" before, well, 'Storm' unleashes, a really wild piece. I can imagine this to accompany a satellite dropping into Jupiter's Red Eye with lots of electrical activity, confusing images etc., or something like that anyway.
What all this variety in themes has to do with the video game is anybody's guess, that must also be a creative world of activity where "anything goes". Anyway, it makes the album a touch uneven but fun to listen to. And Ryuichi Sakamoto probably needed to wind down a bit after his hectic "classical" period of the previous 5 years.
Andrew * writes:
In the Lobby at the G.E.H. in London
I believe sakamoto was giving a concert
in support of bttb in london at the time, but this was an unannounced,
informal concert sakamoto put on with friends including jacques and paula morelenbaum
(it was puala's birthday), which became the impetus for morelenbaum2/sakamoto.
the audience sounds small on the recording, and the tracks include two lengthy
avant-garde improvisations, a performance of antonio carlos jobim's flando
de amor sung by paula and her young daughter (off-key and very heart-warming),
a piano duo performance of air for tibor, and piano trio performances
of tango and 1919.
01.04.25 Warner CD5: WPC6-10126 LP: WPJ6-10126
Ivar de Vries writes:
The main purpose of this charity-project, the first of its kind for Ryuichi Sakamoto, was of course to help out the campaign to generate awareness about the tens of millions of landmines left behind after futile wars, and to raise funds to get rid of the danger they present to many lives around the world. The cover plus booklet bring that message home very directly, with cold statistics about the various types of mines and graphs about their production and deployment. Sakamoto auctioned off his own hand-written score on some Japanese site where it was eventually sold for about $6600 to add to the already ample proceeds of the maxi-single itself.
Happily enough, he didn't forget to compose a more than decent, if not great piece of music to serve a longer-term interest as well. He has always been able to create thoughtful and profound music which is still upbeat and positive without becoming naive, i.e. ideal for this project. Moreover, it served as a vehicle to bring in a whole galaxy of guest-musicians. Although the three YMO-members (Hosono, Sakamoto, Takahashi) plus former Japan singer David Sylvian do the bulk of the music and lyrics, there are cameo-appearances by all kinds of other instrumentalists and singers. They all come together in the long opening track, which is a sort of ethnic journey across Africa and Asia (the regions most plagued by mines), Takahashi's drums, Hosono's bass and Sakamoto's keyboards providing the steady backing-track to all kinds of swinging world-music stuff, samples, Kraftwerk's little sound-logo, Brian Eno's sounds etc. This all culminates in a final sing-along piece, also present separately as track 4.
As always, the first inspiration came on the piano, where the material immediately sounds much more serious, as in the second track with vocals and suitable lyrics by David Sylvian. But the best is saved for last, because the strong final track is basically all YMO with Sakamoto bringing to the fore those smooth high-pitched keyboard sounds which, added to the slightly lazy rhythm, produce a great hypnotic effect.
Probably most people can do without the perhaps slightly corny charity aspect, but here it's more a case of already good music additionally supporting what is after all a worthy cause, rather than using the cause to sell bad music.
(@)01.07.25 cd: WPC6-10145 lp: WPJ6-10145
Sometimes even shortened further to "m2s" -- an acoustic trio of Jacques and Paula Morelenbaum (cello & voice) and RS (piano) who recorded an album of Jobim's highly acclaimed bossa nova music and the music of his friends in the late composer's own home. Superb playing and highly reccomended for the fine music and performances. I do want to point out that while this is of interest to find out about music Sakamoto is passionate about, this is definitely not to be thought of as a solo album or some kind of cross hybrid of "Japan meets Brazil".
WEA Japan seems to have sent out a 6 track short excerpt promo-only preview of this album cat# LCS-224
(*) 01.11.21cd: WPC6-10178
(*) 02.02.26 DVDAudio: WPA6-10001
Ivar de Vries writes:
In the summer of 2000, cellist Jacques Morelenbaum and Ryuichi Sakamoto finished touring the 'BTTB' album around the world and, to top things off, it was decided to throw a private little party-turned-concert in the lobby of a London hotel (later released as the 'In the Lobby' album). Talvin Singh popped in and since it took place around Jacques' wife Paula's birthday, she was invited to sing a song by popular Brazilian jazz-composer Antonio Carlos Jobim (1927-1994). This relatively low-key event proved to be the genesis of the 'Casa' project one year later, a studio- and live-album that form an interesting excursion from Sakamoto's other projects around that time, and just before the September 11 events made his work turn much more serious. For the Morelenbaums it was less of an excursion, as they'd been involved in several Jobim-related projects before.
First there was the studio album, recorded in the comfortable
surroundings of Jobim's own house (or casa), located in Rio de Janeiro. Fourteen
songs and two instrumentals were selected by the trio for inclusion on the
album, in arrangements for piano, cello and vocal, sometimes enhanced by a
little bass, percussion or guitar. Paula Morelenbaum
has the perfect voice for this sort of sunny repertoire which doesn't require
a high-volume voice, very smooth and even, also into the lower registers.
One gathers from these albums that Jobim basically wrote two types of pieces:
slow and fast. The latter type usually has a steady rhythm on the guitar and
sparkling melodies, easiest to play and very easy on the ear too. The slower
pieces consist of meandering chord progressions, with lots of little stops
and starts, the vocal melody holding things together. These have to be played
with plenty of poetic feeling and in the hands of lesser gods can easily sound
clumsy. Here things generally work out well, even if Sakamoto has never been
particularly known for poetry in music.
Next up a series of concerts took place during August 2001 in Tokyo's Akasaka ACT and other theatres, subsequently released on CD and DVD-Audio. The slower songs mostly appear in the first half of the programme, the quicker ones near the end. Six songs were already known from the studio-album, added are seven new Jobim songs, of which the final two are a particular delight. They also include the wistful 'Falando de Amor' which started it all off in the lobby. Sakamoto's own exercise in the South-American genre ('Tango', with new lyrics by Paula) plus one song by another Brazilian star Caetano Veloso complete the programme.
Both booklets have the Portuguese lyrics printed and the DVD-Audio has artist's biographies plus, for each track, either a little picture-gallery or Japanese commentary by the trio, as well as the video-clip accompanying the 'O Grande Amor' single, showing scenes from the recording-sessions and sunny Rio.
Ivar de Vries writes:
Comica is the most overtly ambient album released by Ryuichi Sakamoto to date, if one discounts the little-known ambient CD released together with Miki Nakatani's Cure. Nobody can claim his to be an original voice in this genre because although there was sometimes the odd touch of ambience before in his music, it's always been of more substance than to provide mere background sounds. But background sounds these are, according to one source some of it was used for an installation in a scientific theme park and in this role as a sort of utility-music it probably functions rather well. As a listening experience, less so.
The first four tracks are similar and indeed simple
in their structure: each has a somewhat different set of background tones/noises
to which Sakamoto meanders around on his piano, playing little arpeggios here
and there without ever developing any melody. All quite soothing, sounding much
like Jean-Michel Jarre's long Waiting for Cousteau
On the final two tracks the electronic backgrounds, slightly industrial sounding and slightly randomised, take over completely and become a bit more agitated in the process. At one point what sounds like grains of rice being shaken about in a box is added to the mix. Here the reference point is more Synergy's Computer Experiments.
The digipack-cover is used to add a rather out-of-place comical touch to proceedings, with some silly drawings. A less compelling release then by Sakamoto, and perhaps a bit lost among the others in a hectic 2002 release schedule.
(*)2002 WPC6-10200 (original CD)
Ivar de Vries writes:
The "My Life As A Film" release brings together music Ryuichi Sakamoto did for two documentaries that were shown at various film-festivals around the world in 2002-2003. The five shortish tracks for the Japanese "Alexei and the Spring" feature were probably all actually used, as they have specific titles. But from having seen the American fly-on-the-wall documentary about French philosopher Jacques Derrida at the 2003 Rotterdam festival, it is evident that Sakamoto did a lot more pieces than were actually used in that film. Only the last two tracks (nrs 21/22 on the album) are used regularly, perhaps a few of the other electronic tracks as well, but certainly none of the piano-tracks. There is a brief sequence in the film at Derrida's family grave with an unreleased melodic piano-piece, but that wouldn't have fitted the mood on the album, which is highly abstract. Like Derrida's post-modern philosophy perhaps, of which no coherent picture emerges from the otherwise pleasant enough documentary. Incidentally, soundman for this was Mark Z. Danielewski, author of the brilliant "House of Leaves". As for the music, this is all rather bleak, Sakamoto seems to delve deep into the piano to extract lots of noises from it, all quite interesting but not much of a lasting listening experience. In contrast, the Alexei pieces are fuller in sound and have more melody and rhythm.
Alexei and the Spring (*)KAB 8382-2
Derrida (*) KAB 8383-2
Ivar de Vries writes:
In 2003 the two works were released on separate albums through Sakamoto's own website. This makes sense, the works sit together somewhat uneasily on the original release and it gave an opportunity to release all music Sakamoto recorded for the documentaries. "Derrida" clocks in at well over an hour and contains 7 extra pieces; "Alexei and the Spring" has 33 minutes of music and 11 extra pieces.
2002 (France), Japan
This recent Brian DePalma soundtrack was first released in France.The more commonly available and much more expensive Japanese release has bonus track(s). I think the film wasn't supported too much in the U.S. and no U.S. released soundtrack came out even though it was rumored. While there is good reason to buy the Japanese version someone must be making good money off the Japanese pressings.
A CENTURY OF A REFORM
TV Special theme music single. 8 Tracks total time around 30 minutes. The basic theme is piano with ambient electronics (and a tiny fragment of Martin Luther King speaking in sort of the Opera vein) but subesequent tracks are variations on the same basic theme played on different lead instruments like Violin and Clarinet. The theme melody is beautiful but also quite reminicent of Sheltering Sky and even John Williams' Schindler's List when played on a string instrument. Certainly pleasant listening but its like a set of variations on a theme that itself is a sort of variation on his main movie themes
Documentary on elephants in Kenya. You can purchase the documenatry on DVD also (though in Region 2 and Japanese). 12 tracks and in the minimal packaging RS has been using lately. What is here is a variety of tacts. Like piano playing over a beatbox with sampled african voices and barking to the beat dogs, some very ambient stuff too. playing some native instruments with the long avant garde reverbs RS has been using lately. Also sakamoto working his music in with seemingly intact local African musician recordings. I think Sakamoto is playing samples of an African instrument and intentionally highlighting its similarity to koto.
Ivar de Vries writes:
Ryuichi Sakamoto recovering from and trying to make some sense on a human
level of the September 11 events in his adopted residence New York. He did
this by spending some time in Kenya (February 5th -16th,
2002), taking in its beautiful nature and wildlife, interacting with some
of the local communities and having a number of interviews with scientists
working there. A crew led by producer Sinya Kumagai was taken along to film
all these aspects and later rework the material into the various entities
that make up Elephantism: a double DVD plus book and website launched in April
at the Zoorasia resort in Yokohama and sometime later a CD containing the
music recorded after and evidently inspired by the journey.
If one can accept the idea of Sakamoto sort of holidaying around Kenya and asking big questions about the origin and fate of humanity to people far removed from the actual conflict following on from September 11, then the DVD/book set is most interesting. Starting with the book: it has the same order as the content of the DVDs (that is, when browsed from right to left), all the texts are in Japanese, it has plenty of beautiful photography, a diary and an article with Yoko Ono.
The region 2 DVDs can be played continuously or individual parts of it can be selected via a menu. The first disc contains a video-clip for the Great Africa CD-track; the second has one for Elephant Dance, but apart from that their main content is as follows:
· Disc I part 1 "Into Africa": events start off with pictures of Sakamoto visiting first Ground Zero and then the memorial to the earlier terrorist attack in Nairobi in 1998. This to some pretty ambient piano-music (Embassy on the CD). He makes a visit to the Nairobi Museum where Meave Leakey first explains the scientific aspects of a homo erectus boy skeleton on display. Then they sit down in her laboratory where Sakamoto takes out his notebook and asks her about human aggression (her answer: it's not genetically determined and stems from overcrowding and lack of education).
Disc I part 2 "Cradle of Mankind": first pictures taken from an
airplane set to more smooth ambient music. Then we see Sakamoto visiting a
site with local fossil hunter Kamoya Kimue who actually found the boy skeleton
there in 1984 (subsequently attributed to homo ergaster), talking about how exactly it was discovered and about the differences
in nature between us (homo sapiens) and those older species of humans.
Another interlude showing drawings carved in rocks set to African chants with a Sakamoto arrangement (Elmolo Dance on the CD) is followed by him sitting in the sunset reflecting on what he's found out.
· Disc I part 3 "People with Pride": pictures of a peaceful fishing community at Lake Turkana, set to Elephantism 2 from the CD, followed by the Mosaretu women doing a dance, also on the CD. More musing from Sakamoto afterwards.
· Disc I part 4 "Echoes of Elephants": pictures of a visit to Joyce Poole who has a sound-library containing thousands of elephant calls. She explains the meanings of various calls to a very interested Sakamoto. They then have a lengthy and interesting discussion about the family life of elephants and what humans can learn from that. Poole leans more towards the view that human aggression is genetically determined.
· Disc II part 5 "Masai Land": more wildlife pictures of birds, elephants, hippos, lions followed by scenes in a Masai village and Sakamoto investigating an old colonial house (Mpata on the CD).
Disc II part 6 "Avec Piano": a Yamaha piano is rolled out to a field
at a Masai school in the country-side where the crew first have to sit out
a storm before the children come out and through an interpreter get explained
what a piano is and that a certain mr. Sakamoto will play some pieces for
them. So he does (among them Bolerish
from the Femme Fatale soundtrack)
and the kids get to jam on the piano themselves a couple of times. They return
the favour by performing one of their pieces: the final track on the CD.
Next there's I think a fault in the disc where Lennon's Imagine should be playing (there's a credit for it in the book) but instead some lyrics are shown in silence. This part ends with Sakamoto experiencing another beautiful sunset (Serenity on the CD) and saving his thoughts on a laptop.
· Disc II part 7 "People with Wisdom": through an interpreter Sakamoto has conversations with first an old man, then a bunch of youngsters, asking them questions from his notebook.
Disc II part 8 "Encountering the Elephants": Joyce Poole returns
to take the crew out in a landrover to a family of elephants. They are able
to get quite close and she explains a lot about the group dynamics. At some
point, Sakamoto plays the Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence theme with the elephants really paying attention but not being quite
sure what to make of it (according to Poole).
This is followed by a little lecture from another scientist, Lyall Watson, explaining the current state of science regarding elephant language and emotion.
· Disc II part 9 "Quest": back in New York, Sakamoto sums up his experiences and conclusions.
The film forms a sincere and sympathetic account of what
little African nature and culture Sakamoto was able to encounter in those
10 days. Whether it got him any further in getting to grips with the perhaps
unanswerable big questions he was asking and whether Kenya, a rather prosperous
and peaceful part of Africa, is the best place to ask them, I'm not sure.
It is a pity, especially with a supposedly "universal theme" like
this, that only the interviews with the scientists are in English and that
there are no subtitles other than the Japanese ones, making large parts of
the film not that interesting to non-Japanese speakers.
The music appears to have been recorded quickly afterwards, just Sakamoto on his synths only using some recorded chants in addition. Some of those he provided an arrangement for (one strangely using a sound from the wrong continent, Australia), the ambient nature-documentary type music doesn't work very well without the pictures, but there are a few strong more composed pieces to keep the musically minded interested as well.
(*) 02-12 raster-noton cd: cdr050 lp: vyr050 (Ger) website with preview
Ivar de Vries writes:
When Comica was released early 2002, Ryuichi Sakamoto had already been working with German electronic musician Carsten Nicolai (artist name Alva Noto) on a similar project released later that year called Vrioon. Apparently the two had met up in Tokyo and sometime later started sending chunks of music back and forth to slowly build up the tracks. Sakamoto's contribution consists of rather feature-less piano noodlings around just a few notes to which Nicolai adds clever electronic touches that go all over the place in the stereo mix. It's all highly abstract and pure sounding music, which can have a calming effect. They continued to follow this procedure during the following years, eventually culminating in the Insen release.
(*) 2003 Warner cd5: WPCL-10043
Ivar de Vries writes:
Although it also marks the 15th anniversary of the J-Wave internet radio station on which Sakamoto regularly appears with his own show, this single is an outcome of his anti-war project called chain-music. David Sylvian obviously shares this feeling and contributed some astute lyrics, included in this digipack release. He actually penned two 'World Citizen' songs, the first about a general feeling of unease about the state of the world, the second about the world suffering from specific events like 9/11 and the Iraq war. Perhaps ironically, the drawing of the world on the sleeve includes every continent apart from the two American ones. The musical material is a bit slight, Sakamoto's piano backing-tracks are hardly audible, the second song has a normal backing band and is typical of the sort of gentle, mid-tempo softrock Sylvian produces. The other song fares better with Sketch Show's sound effects but the best track is the final one, Ryoji Ikeda's remix. At least it conveys a more ominous atmosphere more relevant to the lyrics, whereas Sylvian always sounds the same, whether a lyric is about love, war or the telephone directory.
(@) 2004.02.25 WPCL-10072
5. WORLD CITIZEN-I WON'T BE DISAPPOINTED/LOOPED PIANO
6. ONLY LOVE CAN CONQUER HATE
8. BREAK WITH
10. THE LAND SONG-MUSIC FOR ARTELLIGENT CITY/ONE WINTER DAY MIX
11. 20 MSEC.
13. WORLD CITIZEN/RE-CYCLED
14. SEVEN SAMURAI-ENDING THEME
|1. Asience-fast piano
2. YAMAZAKI 2002
4. MERRY CHRISTMAS MR.LAWRENCE
8. RIOT IN LAGOS
9. THEME FOR RONINGAI-SYMPHONIC
10. TAMAGO 2004
11. BIBO NO AOZORA
12. SEVEN SAMURAI-ENDING THEME
13. DEAR LIZ
Ivar de Vries writes:/04, the first in what promises to be a series of annual releases, represents a rather clever idea: to gather some loose ends built up across the year (special-purpose music for the odd commercial, movie or game), append those with some seemingly random selections from across a long career, newly arranged for piano, and release the result as a pleasant selection of mostly piano-only tracks. It has six such loose ends, all great well-constructed compositions, the others range from his YMO days (Riot in Lagos, Perspective, again sung by Sakamoto) to the Chasm album released earlier in the year. /04 was also issued as a score-book with a slightly different CD containing all 12 regular tracks using just the piano, no extras, whereas on the commercial CD some tracks have for example strings added to them. Among those is the "Roningai theme" that accompanies a samurai movie (PCBX-50651). The electronic track as used in the Asience beauty products commercial is also added as a bonus.
(*) 2005.3 raster-noton cd: cdr065 lp: vyr065 (Ger) website with previews
Ivar de Vries writes:
Here the music is a touch fuller, especially Nicolai's electronics being a bit more elaborate. Only the Berlin track was created together in a studio.
One wouldn't think this to be the type of music to go out on tour with but, ever the unpredictable, Sakamoto/Noto successfully managed to do so with a series of 10 concerts around Europe during October 2005. I went to the one in Modena, Italy and the contrast between the small elegant provincial opera theatre and the futuristic music and graphics onstage was striking. The abstract material went down well with the audience, most of it coming from Insen, one piece from Vrioon. Some new pieces were played as well, the last of which a thunderous twenty minute piece with Sakamoto continuously hammering away at his Yamaha grand.
(@) 2005.07.13 WPCL-10201
(*) 2005.9.28 WPCL-10222
|1. TIBETAN DANCE
2. A FLOWER IS NOT A FLOWER
4. ENERGY FLOW
6. THE LAST EMPEROR
8. THOUSAND KNIVES
10. THE SHELTERING SKY
11. LOST THEME
12. SHINING BOY & LITTLE RANDY
Ivar de Vries writes:
/05 more or less continues the /04 theme, although it only has two new tracks, and no musicians other than Sakamoto who in that old favourite 1000 Knives adds some synth and percussion to his piano. Highlights include the 1981 single B-side Happyend (4-handed piano at some point) and the tragic Lost Theme, both of which have a certain Bach-like quality to them. The incentive for this release appears to have been a concert-tour around Japan in December 2005 and rightly so, as both these releases plus of course the like-minded BTTB provide excellent material to soothe the soul on a dark winter night.
Energy Flow, one of the tracks from the BTTB period also featured on /05, was used for Colorcalm's by Design DVD to accompany graphics designed by John Maeda.
I don't want to get into video/DVD releases at the moment, but here's a list (not complete, and I only have a few myself)
This professionally shot film provides a record of the 1995 Japanese tour supporting the Smoochy album, culminating in the Budokan concert which constitutes the bulk of this film. For the concert's multi-media aspect, a pioneering live web relay and the possibility to send in text-messages to be shown on stage-monitors, Sakamoto contacted Daizaburo Harada, who'd worked with him before in 1985 and also was involved with YMO's Technodon concerts. The abbreviation D&L stands for some loose themes associated with the concert like "Dream & Love", "Digital & Life", typical for the more innocent early days of the Internet.
The DVD has no separate menu with extras, instead they are inserted at various
points in the film, for example at the start the E-mails Sakamoto exchanged
with Harada, text-messages being shown (from Laurie Anderson among others),
sequences of the whole entourage traveling/rehearsing and treating Sakamoto
to his birthday party.
This tour most likely was his last stab at playing the pop star before turning to more serious modern classical work. He sports a striking white haircut, occasionally ventures out for a little dance on stage and heads a conventional band boasting guitar, bass, keys, percussion, soul-diva Kelli Sae plus on violin Everton Nelson who occasionally doubles on vocals. Most singing is done by Sakamoto himself though in his rather soft voice, sitting behind his trusted Yamaha grand.
Almost all of Smoochy is played along with assorted pieces from earlier albums, sometimes in different, extended arrangements, like with 'Dennogiwa'. This means the more serious side already present on Smoochy also gets a hearing, as exemplified by an excellent rendering of 'Bring Them Home'. On the whole though the atmosphere is upbeat, the band rocking along with the odd touch of soul and jazz thrown into the mix. Rousing versions of YMO classics 'Ongaku' and 'Behind the Mask' bring the show to a close, here and earlier Sakamoto also plays the synth sitting on top of his piano.
-> to my page about Sakamoto before 1984
-> to my page on Sakamoto Live Albums
-> to my page on Sakamoto Collaborations and "Best Of" albums.
To Subscribe to the YMO Mailing List (Unofficial and English language)
Thanks to: Kai Seidler, Yosuke Morimoto, Ross Clement, Yue Yaguchi, Wolfgang Wiggers, Kenji Mori, Otaku Bowler, David McKenzie for info.
see nick kent's YMO page for more links about Ryuichi Sakamoto
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