Taku Sugimoto - Italia (2001)
For some years now, I've had a lot of trouble relating to the work of Japanese guitarist, improviser and composer Taku Sugimoto (杉本拓). He seems to be disappearing into a black hole of theoretical concerns, and the resulting music is more often than not too dry, too absent to connect with. There was a time though when his playing was a lot less hesitant, a lot more spirited and soulful. To hear that Sugimoto, you need only return to such masterpieces as his solo album 'Opposite' (1998 HatNoir), or 'The World Turned Upside Down' (2000 Erstwhile, an improv trio with Keith Rowe and Günter Müller), or some of his duos with Kevin Drumm or Annette Krebs.
'Italia' marks something of a transitional phase. Released in 2001 (and for years now impossible to find), it was also the first release on French label A Bruit Secret, they of the design even more minimal than the music. Four years later they would release 'Principia Sugimatica', which is unlistenable (well, almost completely inaudible) to me; apparently they'll stick with him however far he's willing to go. I gave up on 'Principia' immediately, but the concert recordings from Bologna and Milan that make up 'Italia' can captivate me. In the words of Dan Warburton: 'The music is, for the most part, exceedingly quiet, nearly empty (the word is more appropriate than "minimal," and Sugimoto's recent work has become even emptier), but once the ear becomes attuned, it's delicate, fleet (surprisingly active in places), melodic, and extremely beautiful.'