Koji Asano

Caffeine

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Released seven months after Koji Asano's debut, Solstice, Caffeine follows a similar direction, i.e., it culls compositions made with various instruments, techniques, and intentions. The main difference resides in the general mood, overall much gentler here despite what the title might imply. Asano's personality has never been easy to grasp, but in this album it is scattered in fragments over a wide range of pieces. The magnum opus -- at least in length -- is "O" (actually not the letter O but a circle), a piece of musique concrète. It fiddles around with treated sounds and samples but amounts to little more than an experiment. The same applies to "Birds," a surprising Bach-like etude so out of place that it is almost surreal. The crunchy electric guitar in "Alkaloid" recalls a couple of tracks from the first album without topping them. In this unfocused release, the best moments are found in the opening and closing tracks, "Rainy Sunday Morning" and "2:30, am," both gentle piano pieces with light electronics in the background. Their dreamy naïveté evokes Ernesto Diaz-Infante's solo piano CDs (Ucross Journal, Itz'at). Asano was looking for direction(s). Caffeine chronicled his search, but in retrospect it remains a weak proposition, although much easier to listen to than much of his later sound art.

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