Koji Asano

Gondola Odyssey

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Over the years and after 30 albums, Koji Asano has developed a highly personal approach to what is commonly called noise. His music is resolutely maximalist, but it doesn't have the harshness that makes some people qualify Merzbow's music as violent. Harsh, yes, but not hellish, Asano's music often feels like an extreme close-up, or like living inside a sound. His textures are rich and overwhelming, harsh on the ear and yet strangely soothing. What can repulse is the apparent lack of structure. All that applies to Gondola Odyssey, an album to be put beside The Last Shade of Evening Falls, Autumn Meadow and The End of August. Each of the four parts begins and ends abruptly, so abruptly in fact that you wonder if their duration is not downright arbitrary. And yet, you cannot imagine another way to edit them, as they feel like four chunks out of an eternal soundscape -- say, four fragments of a text as long as Homer's Odyssey, taken out of context to add to their mystery. Part four evokes a typical peak in one of Francisco López's pieces, but stretched out across 18 minutes. In fact, Asano might very well have found a land between López's microsonic (and often extremely quiet) soundworld and Merzbow's sonic hell. Gondola Odyssey is mesmerizing like the best of this composer's albums.