Playing the Piano/Out of Noise (Decca)
Ryuichi Sakamoto, a pioneering composer in electronic music, founded the techno-pop group Yellow Magic Orchestra in 1978. He has recorded a few dozen albums of his own and played on nearly 10 CDs by David Sylvian, also working over the years with David Byrne, Iggy Pop, David Bowie, and Alva Noto.
Playing the Piano, the first of this two-disc set, holds a dozen solopiano self-covers of Sakamoto’s earlier works. Much of the music is clear, peaceful, and placid, although on “Riot in Lagos,” Sakamoto is more strident and dramatic. “Tibetan Dance” is delicate and brilliant, with a strong rhythmic element. The evocative “Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence” is a theme from the film of the same name; Sakamoto also scored Women Without Men, Little Buddha, High Heels, and many other
movies. The second CD, Out of Noise, is original, more experimental music. Sakamoto here pursues his long fascination with the line between music and noise. “Firewater,” for example, offers a barrage of sound/noise, sort of a multihued roar. “Disko,” “Ice,” and “Glacier” incorporate ambient sounds Sakamoto recorded under the surface of the Arctic Sea and on a glacier in Greenland. Collaborating artists include Karen H. Filskov providing vocals; Keigo Oyamada on guitar; and Skúli Sverrisson on dobro. The closers are two solo-piano pieces, one grand and classical and the last almost purely percussive. This package, overall, is compelling and often mesmerizing. — Paul Weideman