June 19, 2009

Tetsu Inoue – Inland (2007, Fax +49-69/450464)

Tetsu Inoue is an ambient and experimental electronic musician with a prolific catalog of releases since the early '90s. Much of his material was released on the Fax +49-69/450464 label run by Pete Namlook, a hyper-prolific artist in his own right, known among other things for his Pink Floyd-inspired "The Dark Side Of The Moog" ambient collaborations with kraut-meister Klaus Schulze. The Fax label was known for releasing one-time pressings in very limited editions, usually 500 to 1000 copies, which made much of Inoue's back-catalog unaccesable and over-priced for many years. "Ambiant Otaku" from '94, for example, is widely regarded as an essential ambient classic on discussion forums online, but due to its scarce availability of 1000 copies, would regularly sell for upwards of $200 on eBay, as did other Fax releases from the early '90s. Thankfully, Fax has embraced iTunes to distribute much of their catalog in high quality MP3 format, and all of Inoue's albums and collaborations are now available for usually $9.99 per album. My first exposure to Inoue's music was on the more digital glitch end of the spectrum with '97s "Waterloo Terminal" and the '98 Tzadik release "Psycho-Acoustic". Considering the time period, both albums are incredibly futuristc, making use of the latest DSP effects, granular synthesis and bitcrushed field recordings. While some of the tracks have moments of soothing ambience, the tone is generally more abstract, electro-acoustic and slightly noisy, without being overly abrassive. In '07, I saw an announcement that a new Tetsu Inoue solo album had been released that was receiving comparisons to his classic works. While the CD was only available in an edition of 500, the album was available in high quality digital format online, along with the now-reasonably-priced "Ambiant Otaku". Having heard both now, I understand the comparisons, although I can also hear how much Inoue's production technique and musical aesthetic has evolved in 13 years. While "Ambiant Otaku" features repeating tonal structures and arpeggios over a bed of shifting synthesizers with a just-slightly-dated early '90s feel, "Inland" is more formless, abstract and cinematic, featuring constanly morphing clouds of calm sound with a futuristic digital edge. The music is gentle and enveloping, with some slightly melancholy passages and lots of depth and mystery. Each of the 8 tracks has a distinct pallet of sounds, but all flow together, exploring similar ambient territory. I am unfamiliar with much of Inoue's back-catalog, but many consider his Fax releases to be ambient "classics", so probably anything you can find is worth hearing.