Aki Onda - Precious Moments
Touching minimalist bricolage
Originally released on the short-lived Cologne label Softlmusic in 2001, Japanese composer and improvisor Aki Onda's second full-length is a true masterpiece of warm minimalism. Combining languid instrumental performances with beds of site-specific concréte sound, the album is formidable in its emotional heft and post-electronic aesthetic; a hidden gem from the year that gave us both Endless Summer and Loop-finding-jazz-music.
The album's emotional core is formed by the delicate performances of Onda's collaborators. Most tracks feature beautifully restrained clarinet work by venerable improvisor Kazutoki Umezu, and placid, introspective acoustic guitar by Jyoji Sawada. Onda's own collage-based work takes a supporting role, constructing intriguingly soft-focus beds of gently looping tape-grain ambience, resonant synth arpeggiations, and variable-fidelity field recordings.
Resisting the allure of millennial indietronica, the guitar and reed accompaniments are often achingly sparse, floating in silence, each note languishing in natural room tone. When the live and electronic instruments do collide, they intentionally occupy distinct audio spaces, allowing each element to evolve at its own pace and according to its own logic. Preferring the juxtaposition of minimal building blocks over a fully synthesized whole, Onda's skill as a bricoleur makes for a wonderfully-executed pastiche that is often touching, sometimes challenging, and never dull.