Sawako: Madoromi

How apropos that Japanese native and NY resident Sawako should name her third full-length album Madoromi: the Japanese term, when translated, refers to a state of being betwixt sleeping and waking, and the album's nine compositions perfectly capture that in-between state where one hazily lapses in and out of consciousness. Aided by digital technologies and practices, Sawako constructs tranquil, electroacoustic settings from a multitude of instruments (vibes, guitar, cello, music box) and real-world found sounds. The resultant pieces inhabit a deeply textured ambient space that's wholly satisfying despite the absence of conventional melody. Much of the material layers chiming tones, tinkles, angelic murmurs, cello tones, clicks, and piano fragments over softly lulling loops. Hazy echoes of instruments intermingle in slow-motion, resulting in resonating streams of hypnotic stillness.

The music's intimate, home-made feel comes to the forefront in “Passepass” where natural sounds like voices—coughing too—and footsteps invest the blurry loops with a palpably human dimension. “Appled Soapbox” is dominated by soft vinyl crackle and vibes but not so much that a distorted, garbled male voice can't be heard bobbing intermittently to the surface. The unsullied innocence of Sawako's music is exemplified by “Kira Kira,” where sparkling chimes evoke the image of a crib-bound infant enraptured by a slowly rotating mobile, and the undoctored music box coda “Tiny Tiny.” If one had to select a single piece as representative of this uniformly beautiful album (and perfectly-timed too at forty-two minutes), “Far Away,” where an almost liquid state of entrancement emerges from tones and vocals that seem to melt into one another, might be the perfect choice.

November 2007