Alva Noto and Ryuichi Sakamoto, both impressive and important musicians in their own right, have been collaborating on a semi-frequent basis since the release of their 2002 album “Vrioon”. “Glass” marks their first output together since collaborating on the much-acclaimed soundtrack to Alejandro González Iñárritu's 2015 film, "The Revenant".
“Glass” is a single, 37-minute long, improvised piece of electroacoustic and ambient music. It was performed live as a site-specific art installation inside of Philip Johnson’s famous Glass House. That little bit of contextual information proves to be rather significant, for not only was the home the inspiration for the title, cover art, and composition, but the physical structure and architecture itself was directly involved in the production of sounds found on the record. Contact microphones placed onto the surface of the walls picked up and transformed the sound waves as they bounced around the room, creating a type of feedback loop between the room and the performers. These effects are increased considerably when Sakamoto traces the glass panes with small mallet-like objects, creating a large shimmering noise that sharply pierces the mix.
The music is patient and slow-moving. The basic structure of "Glass" is largely comprised of these deep and sustained, synthesized drones. On top of this foundation, various bright and abstracted electronically processed sounds float around in the mix. This basic dynamic gives the music an unpredictable and impulsive quality about it. What makes this effort so successful is the history and chemistry that Noto and Sakamoto have. You can tell that these two have been working together for over fifteen years. Rarely do the actions of one inappropriately clash with the contributions of the other. This aspect is very important because a healthy working relationship is key for the dynamic of improvised music. For this to work, the musicians need to be able to effectively promote a sense of unity, and the listener needs to be able to believe it. And on all of these points, the performance works beautifully. My chief problem with this album is how the performance is concluded. Put bluntly; it just suddenly fades out. Nothing really feels resolved or finished, and it is all wrapped up without fanfare or sense of finality.
Sakamoto and Noto are titans in their field, and for good reason. This release proves the two have great chemistry and work incredibly well together. All though I understand that this is a completely improvised piece, I still wish the performance and composition resolved itself in a more satisfactory manner.
For people who like: Brian Eno, Yellow Magic Orchestra, and Haruomi Hosono.