The earthquake and subsequent horrors endured by Japan cloud this 45th release by the legendary sound artist Koji Asano. Released only as a digital download because of the impossibility of pressing CDs at the moment, “Solstice Eclipse” is tinged with echoing sadness and yet with majestic resignation. There is a somber hope to this single forty -five minute track; like it title, and like the events in Japan, there is a mix of wonder and fear, and an emotional strength that makes positive use of both.
There are two tones that underpin the continuous soundscape. In the first third of the piece, it is a heartbreaking high-pitched tone, as if a constant presence is hovering over the piece as guide or protector. An industrial, almost blurred cello drone moans in the forefront of the soundscape, a hive of emotion that, even without Japan as a subtext, would be moving and draining. A melodic riff slowly repeats as the piece fades out.
A work of art has to be judged on its own merit, aside from historical context or the particulars of its creator. But those can’t but play into any assessment. “Solstice Eclipse” is one of the most powerful and hypnotic releases of Koji Asano’s career, a stunning achievement. That it was created and released amid the tensions of a human tragedy and natural disaster adds to its power, but does not take away from its inspired brilliance.