Takuma Itoi
Quietude
Karate Joe
2005
B



in electronic/ambient/glitch music you can get away with a uniformity of sound that would doom a rock band or a rapper. Takuma Itoi's debut record of softly twining drones, clicks, and sines has an extremely small palette of sound to work from, but instead of being boring it's soothing—like standing in a gentle rain or sleeping on a boat or a hundred other images we reach for the when the actual sound of the album is amorphous and hazy enough that it's a stretch just to conjure up what the music actually sounds like.

For influences or reference you could turn to a few of Itoi's countrymen, Susumu Yokota at his most digital or Nobukazu Takemura at his least whimsical (or, going further afield geographically, Oval in a really, really nice mood), but music like this always seems beyond the reach of human intervention; not just the absence of a human voice but seemingly of any human touch whatsoever. Like a field of ice, broken and reformed over and over again until you think that there might be pattern in all the cracks, but superficially the same as far as the eye can see. Of course as you hear more you start to pick up the smaller things, the bright shards of bell in “The Third Person,” the subliminal finger snaps amidst “On the Wind,” the way “Go On” sounds more like the work of Eluvium or Fennesz than the more crystalline sounds of the rest of Quietude.

Unlike a lot of music you could describe as glitchy, Itoi keeps things calm, cool, and collected. Even when a track like “Trans-” pushes slightly faster than most, the effect is soothing rather than pulse-quickening. Although the sounds here are mostly kept sparse there's always a slightly rich feel to the music, and on headphones it feels as if you're being wrapped in a warm comforter. Quietude is, like many ambient albums, very carefully managed and winds down after forty minutes of little dramatic variation; just the right length to do some cleaning or read for a while, nothing too active; the kind of oasis of calm most of us need in our days but just active enough to keep it away from soporific status. Given how much ambient or otherwise relaxing music tends to get associated with sleep or at least drowsiness, that makes Quietude a rare and valuable beast.

True, in order to figure out what tracks were what I had to concentrate extremely hard on noting the track display instead of just settling back into the music, but as with so many of his peers Itoi's work resists being experienced as anything other than a whole. It's hard not to wish that more people had access to music like Quietude on a purely functional basis, but those who do will quickly come to appreciate it for more than functional reasons.


Reviewed by: Ian Mathers
Reviewed on: 2006-04-06
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