Review: Hiroki Sasajima – Bells

As the blur of tones mutates and blends between harmonic shapes, Bells changes from billowy ambient clouds into restless storms of noise, and then on into turbulent hums of microphone feedback. The presence of sound is a constant, but the atmosphere is not; one thing Sasajima accomplishes very effectively is the reconstruction of one landscape to form a juxtaposing one, and this 36-minute track is capable of feeling like music-centric drone at one moment and a toneless stretch of field recording the next.

Although some states are infinitely more intriguing than others. The combination of lo-fi crackles, phantom music boxes and deeply resonant drones during the first few minutes is a marvellous highpoint, only properly equalled by the rustles and soft murmurs that linger awkwardly at around the 25-minute mark. In contrast, the more explicitly “musical” sections (say, around 10 minutes in) break away into clichéd ambient harmonies, leaving Bells to gradually dissolve colourlessly into the air.

In fact, Sasajima seems to weaken once his stream of ambience rises into the higher frequencies. There’s a sense of resolve and freedom during these moments that renders the music without purpose, and Bells is at its most compelling when it rumbles and surges as though constantly fighting off the forces of gravity and silence. It’s here that the piece finds life and raison d’etre within the struggle and opposition.