Somei Satoh


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With Sun/Moon, Somei Satoh speaks with the ancient, distinct voice of Buddha, with enough melodramatic romanticism to stir the emotions of even the most Western ears. Perhaps less cinematic than his previous album, Toward the Night, but no less passionate in tone, with gorgeous, rich dialogue between shakuhachi and koto that circulates between whispers, cries, gasps, and deep contemplation. The opening piece, "Kougetsu," is the sound of a rock garden minding its own business, a dragonfly dreaming restlessly amongst the bamboo. "Sanyou" follows in much the same way, in an expression of (as the composer puts it) "the purity of the early morning air." Shin Miyashita plucks his 17-string koto with patience, reverence, and in perfect symbiosis with Akikazu Nakamura, a stoic virtuoso on the shakuhachi. Nakamura was the first to use circular breathing with the instrument, and to great effect on the dynamic closing solo of "Kaze No Kyoku," where he both prowls within barely audible harmonics and at once opens the floodgates to the distressful chills of night. It is often Satoh's generous use of silence that gives this album such meditative weight -- a sense of patiently unfolding enlightenment. Consequently, song structure seems less prominent than the rich, extended phrasings that rise, fall, and rise again over the course of 44 minutes. The album closes as it began, as Nakamura once again breathes a pure, almost glass-like vapor of tone into the silence around it. Sun/Moon is a small treasure from New Albion Records worth finding.

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