Album Reviews of the Week

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RAVI: Ryuichi Sakamoto - async (2017) ◊◊◊  With his sixteenth studio offering, Japanese musician Ryuichi Sakamoto creates a bespoke and complex ambient landscape. The album, over the course of its fourteen tracks, simultaneously cushions and unn erves us, never allowing the listener to be sedated or for the aural engagement to become passive. ‘andata’, the procession-like opening stops just short of sombre as the album begins with a reflective and forgiving tone. The next track ‘disintegration’ is an example of this unpredictable movement and texture; listening is not a comfortable process, though pleasure can still be found in the sporadic tones. 'ubi' is a highlight, with Sakamoto showing his background as a pianist with a beautiful sequence, punctuated by a penetrating single note which resembles a submarine’s sonar pulse — no opportunity for numbness in ambience, we are constantly intrigued by his conflation of the classical and experimental. ‘fullmoon’ sees spoken lyrics take centre stage: “because we don’t know when we will die, we get to think of life as an inexhaustible well”, the speaker gently asserts - here the album provides linguistic contemplation to match its musical wandering. The result of the continued fusion that Sakamoto achieves is incredibly pleasing, and although it isn’t the most easily digestible piece of ambient music, it makes for an intriguing and thought-provoking soundtrack.

Related artists: Joe Hisaishi, Akira Kosemura, David Sylvian

NICOLA: John Mayer - The Search for Everything (2017) ◊◊◊◊

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John Mayer’s new album is a hybrid of different genres, fusing rock, funk and country in its exciting synthesis. Some of the tracks, including ‘Still Feel Like Your Man’ and ‘Moving On and Getting Over’, depart from his usual style and in their experimentation with the recently revived, iconic 80s sound. These are balanced by soft ballads, such as the closing track, ‘You’re Gonna Live Forever in Me’, which reminded me of a cross between Coldplay and ‘You’ve Got a Friend in Me’. Whilst his slower offerings are a little basic in their composition, Mayer’s voice remains as distinctive and redeeming as ever. His trademark guitar virtuosity is also remains a leading feature. ‘Love on the Weekend’ begins with a nostalgic, reverberating guitar riff, and it’s a classic tune for those daydreaming days when you’re staring wistfully out of the car window, pretending to be in a film. Mayer has this Sunday afternoon style down to perfection – my favourite track from the album is ‘Rosie’, namely its catchy, contrasting riffs. I get the sense that Mayer is branching out with instrumentation – he has always been an inventive musician, and this album is no exception, utilising various synthesised effects, as well as adding some string and brass parts. Despite his comments on Instagram about Kendrick Lamar’s new album DAMN upstaging him (with the same release date), I think Mayer has produced another classic that, on the whole, continues a pretty impeccable musical record.

Related artists: Norah Jones, Jack Johnson, Don Ross