On this, her third full-length release, Kato Sawako navigates the aural realm of narcotic sleeplessness, reveling in shadowy haze and perpetual out-of-body motion. Apparently an approximate translation of the album title expresses this sentiment precisely?the state betweem sleep and waking. On first listen, I thought to place this record firmly in EAI territory, however I've reconsidered and see this more in the vein of traditional electronic ambient. Perhaps this distinction exists only in mind, but I'm willing to go with it. While obviously digitally manipulated, ?Madoromi? feels overwhelmingly organic, in the classicist tradition of even Eno or William Basinski. On opener ?August Neige,? stretched tones float atop gentle voices practically in Cocteau Twins territory. Don't ask me where the instrumentation originated, I have no clue, but the soft, cascading lushness completely fills the room. Similar tones reappear on ?Uta Tane,? but instead act as space construction for slow guitar moves, plucking out the slightest hint of a melody. ?Far Away? revisits this methodology, bringing to mind visions of a bubbling stream in its mystifying pastoral deconstructionism. The detailed, close recording makes this process even more surreal as you are easily able to pick out distinct elements in the music. Perhaps hanging out in the cassette underground so long has made me appreciate the effectiveness of a real studio.
Disconnected ethereal voices act as a second commonality linking these proceedings. Some appear to be a female voice singing along with the music (presumably Sawako), while others could be sourced from field recordings of newscasts or random conversations, then treated to DSP re-assemblage. The more I think about it and listen deeply?the resounding stretches of pure drone appear to come from bells or chimes of some sort subjected to the same software manipulations; in turn reminding me of another rather similar recording from this year, Alejandro and Aeron's ?Billowy Mass,? but without (I'm assuming) the intention of being an alternate text. Each of the nine tracks magically appear distinct but never break from the mold. Shortened track lengths work as an asset, as each comes across as a movement presenting a variation of a unified whole.
Wonderfully simplistic cover art immediately drew me into this one when I pulled it from the mail bag: pale red/pink watercolor droplets spilling onto glossy cardstock. With all the stress in our lives these days, take sometime to empty your mind. If you need something to induce the process, check out Sawako before those with the power make it illegal. The North American distribution is being handled by Forced Exposure, so this one will be easy to grab. Inspiring. 9/10 -- Brandon Miller (5 December, 2007)