Sakamoto & Toop are captured in precisely unpredictable, improvised form in their remarkable first collaboration, recorded at St John at Hackney Church, London, 2018.
‘Garden of Shadows and Light’ bears witness to the entirety of the duo’s debut concert, where the pair pay tribute to the aesthetics of Japanese gardening (hence the title), cultivating and exploring a spectra of carefully pruned small sounds for the first half, before blossoming into a lusher, pricklier sort of night garden described with animalistic electric guitar and guttural inside piano sound. It’s a meeting of two weighty musical minds, pitting a rarely paralleled breadth of knowledge and skills spanning decades (upon decades) of work between the fields of film music, pop session work, sound installation and live performance at the service of a deeply immersive, world building style.
It’s the 2nd release of Sakamoto’s work by the church’s related label, ThirtyThree ThirtyThree Recordings, following his duo with Taylor Deupree, and as one might expect, it’s very different to that side’s dreamy minimalism. There's a paucity of ingredients in the mix here, but they’re used to express a more curious mix of atavistic and crafty avant-classical gestures, almost imagining two perplexed cavemen feeling out a menagerie of instruments, or even reminding us to the naturally unpredictable logic of the birds playing electric guitars in Céleste Boursier-Mougenot’s exhibit. They gradually coalesce into thicker chords and syncopations, arriving to the ear as warm licks of lap steel guitar, and then calling into the night via shakuhachi and plangent noise in the 2nd half, always making room for pregnant lacunae and tip of tongue tones that really define the piece and lend its seat edge-but-floating quality.