Whether or not it was recorded as a last will and testament or as a soundtrack to an Andrei Tarkovsky film "that does not exist," async was a stunning late work from one of the most formidable talents of the 20th century. An album both Spartan and stirring, it found Sakamoto meditating on the blurred lines between the organic and synthetic, sound and silence, everyday objects and the negative space around them. That leaves plenty of room for an ambitious set of remixers to operate on Async - Remodels. What's remarkable about the LP is that most of its 11 artists—whether newcomers, collaborators or longtime fans—all make tracks that sound like natural extensions of the originals.
As Oneohtrix Point Never, Daniel Lopatin has proven to be as restless an artist as Sakamoto. His take on the spare piano ballad "Andata" keeps its bittersweet melody intact while pushing it into deep space. Lopatin is both reverent and playful, applying those resonant lines to plucked strings, weird prog and new age synths and all-out white noise. So resilient is Sakamoto's contemplative melody that it works even when it resurfaces in a rote space disco remix from Electric Youth.
Since Alva Noto and Christian Fennesz have worked closest with Sakamoto in the last two decades, that familiarity makes their remixes seem almost collaborative, with Noto taking the plinks of "disintegration" and dilating them to explore the chilly atmospheres between each note. Fennesz shoots "Solari" through all manner of fuzz and distortion, its melody nevertheless shining like a sun through thick haze. While Sakamoto never worked with Jóhann Jóhannsson, the late composer's remix of "Solari," which balances resonant strings and bristling white noise, is an all-too-brief glimpse at what might have been had they ever collaborated on a film score.
The less successful remixes come near the end. S U R V I V E's version of "Fullmoon" doesn't know what to do beyond adding dramatic synth washes to the original. Andy Stott's remix, rather than revelling in the doom that defined Luxury Problems, instead goes with some dribbles of drum machine, his touch too light to be memorable. The biggest payoffs come from artists who take the biggest risks with the source material. Arca adds his own falsetto vocals, queasy bass rumbles and a fraught sense of drama to "Async"'s prickly, pizzicato strings. Yves Tumor takes "ZURE" and adds sluggish drum beats, whispers, an arching sax solo and even a vocal hook, an audacious yet wholly successful rework. He and the other remixers all reveal the sizable debt and sonic paternity of Sakamoto on their own music.
Fri / 23 Feb 2018
01. Andata (Oneohtrix Point Never Rework)
02. Andata (Electric Youth Remix)
03. Disintegration (Alva Noto Remodel)
04. Async (Arca Remix)
05. Fullmoon (Motion Graphics Remix)
06. Solari (Fennesz Remix)
07. Solari (Jóhann Jóhannsson Rework)
08. ZURE (Yves Tumor Obsession Edit)
09. Fullmoon (S U R V I V E Version)
10. ZURE (Cornelius Remix)
11. Life, Life (Andy Stott Remodel)