Released in 2017 and built to stand the test of time, Async was Japanese master musician and composer Ryuichi Sakamoto’s first solo album in eight years, following his recovery from throat cancer. Mortality, existentialism, nostalgia and gratitude permeate the album with wistful, thoughtful, foggy fragility. Both warm and cold, and acoustic and electronic, Sakamoto’s palette includes a range of instrumentation: everyday objects, spoken word, mystifying textures and field recordings.
If the album feels like a soundtrack, besides Sakamoto’s Academy Award-winning expertise as a film composer, it’s because Sakamoto conceived the album as a soundtrack to a nonexistent movie he imagined made by film icon Andrei Tarkovsky.
Conceptually, Sakamoto took influence from John Coltrane, Claude Debussy and sound art sculptor Harry Bertoia. In a deliberate effort to collage sound and music, and to break the mold of only finding pleasure in being in sync, Sakamoto played with “ideas of asynchronism, prime numbers, chaos, quantum physics and the blurred lines of life and artificiality/noise and music.”
You never accidentally commit to reading Shakespeare, taking a seat at the opera or visiting the Sistine Chapel. But sometimes you’re lucky enough to stumble onto an album, not realizing that the moment will be recalled as a kind of Big Bang in which you beheld a masterpiece for the first time and felt the emotional frisson. If this is your first, settle in with a tea or something to savor, close your eyes and listen until the final note.
– Lauren Fay Levy
Recommended: Full Listen
Tags: Ambient / Deep Listening / Electronic / Now Sound