Eclipse Review: Ryuichi Sakamoto - Discord (1997)


artist: Ryuichi Sakamoto
release: Dis­cord
format: CD
year of release: 1997, 1998
label: Sony Clas­sical
dur­a­tion: 54:41

detailed info: dis​cogs​.com

Ryuichi Sakamoto is a Japan­ese com­poser, who is mainly known from his award-winning film soundtracks (like The Last Emperor and Merry Christ­mas Mr. Lawrence), and his work with the band Yel­low Magic Orches­tra. Dis­cord is a rel­at­ively recent solo album, built around a spe­cific con­cept, where Sakamoto col­lab­or­ates with DJ Spooky, David Torn and “The Orches­tra”.

There are many ways in which one could inter­pret this album, but our idea is that Dis­cord is about mourn­ing. First comes the hon­est grief, then the anger that fol­lows, where­after the let­ting go begins. The prayer, where one con­fides his or her power­less­ness to a higher entity, and finally sal­va­tion, wherein the whole pro­cess cul­min­ates. Every move­ment has its own musical theme that is extens­ively explored and developed, which gives the album great coher­ence and clar­ity.

The album starts very peace­fully, with the intro­duc­tion of the main musical theme on strings. This is slowly developed with other instru­ments, while a dark under­tone of double bass is added, and later church bells as well. The viol­ins sound more and more thin, until the melody sinks away into a dark and chaotic piece. “Grief” ends serenely, with a soft new melody for the strings. The move­ment is a very power­ful depic­tion of grief in all its aspects.

Anger” is nat­ur­ally a more aggress­ive move­ment. After the peace­ful end­ing of “Grief”, we are startled awake imme­di­ately by the viol­ent chaos that the orches­tra dis­plays. A rage that relent­lessly repeats itself, after a while sup­por­ted by a rum­bling snare, which reminds of a train thun­der­ing past. Because of the repe­ti­tion, this song seems to depict a sort of empty rage, a sense­less scream out of power­less­ness and frus­tra­tion.

Prayer” starts with a calm med­it­a­tion on oboe, after which other wood­winds gently join in, and later on piano, strings and a soft but heavy drone in the back­ground. Here and there, some effects and wisps of gui­tar can be made out as well. This move­ment is the most pure, because it exists entirely of a long devel­op­ment of the single peace­ful theme, without devi­at­ing from it.

The final move­ment, “Sal­va­tion”, is not really a fixed con­cept, as the first three were, but more of a search for what sal­va­tion could be. All themes from the pre­vi­ous move­ments can be heard here, which makes for a nice wrap up of the entire album. How­ever, there are also new ele­ments, among which are record­ings of people try­ing to explain what sal­va­tion means to them. It is unclear whether this search can truly be brought to a suc­cess­ful con­clu­sion, for the musical end­ing is not unam­bigu­ously happy, to say the least. It could be depict­ing a return to chaos, to Dis­cord, but one might as well inter­pret it as frus­tra­tion over an unat­tain­able sal­va­tion. The pos­sib­il­it­ies are end­less.

Next to the musical side of Dis­cord, there is also a mul­ti­me­dial side. The CD is listen­able and view­able in your PC, where it is accom­pan­ied by a very worth­while digital present­a­tion. There is also an offi­cial web­site ded­ic­ated to the album, which con­tains all sorts of extra mater­ial: www​.kab​.com/​d​i​s​c​ord. Dis­cord is an extraordin­ar­ily beau­ti­ful album, which does not lend itself eas­ily to com­par­ison with other music on our site, nor with the work of other mod­ern artists, or even Sakamoto’s other work. In any case, it def­in­itely deserves a spot here, because it har­bours a deep, dark dimen­sion, that should be appeal­ing to any­one with a wide ori­ent­a­tion.

Reviewed by D.M.K. & O.S.

Track­list:

1. Grief (17:37)
2. Anger (5:38)
3. Prayer (17:49)
4. Sal­va­tion (13:37)