Late last year we were offered the exciting opportunity to hold a much belated celebration for our Yu Miyashita 12” on pioneering Japanese music streaming service, Dommune. Among the performers, we were able to host Yukitomo Hamasaki, founder of independent label, mAtter. Over his hour long set, Hamasaki proved himself a man of diverse tastes. Funk-tinged hip-hop, downbeat piano movements and even John Lennon’s ‘Give Peace A Chance’ were included, and a similarly wide-array of pursuits are represented on the label.
mAtter’s latest release for example, Six Pieces For Guitar by Belgian sound-artist Stijn Hüwels, explores meditative loops crafted from carefully processed guitar and field recordings. Hüwels’ interest in minimalism is clear to see, even before listening to the release. The release’s cover is a deep, off-colour white, devoid of further embellishment aside from a modest typeface stating the title. Similarly, the tracks are simply titled ‘Untitled I-IV’, leaving it up to the listener to interpret each theme.
The secondary effect of this is that you consider the release as a single work - something befitting seeing as the tracks enjoy similar tonal palettes. The ebbing melancholia of ‘Untitled I’ sets the tone for the rest of the album, the most notable progression being Hüwels’ gently increasing use of foley, timidly drawing the listener in deeper, one found-sound at a time.
However, ‘Untitled VI’ closes with one of the album’s most lasting moments. Hüwels ditches the washing ambience of former tracks for something decidedly more dynamic. Tremors of fluttering guitar set a wistful and introspective tone that wouldn’t be out of place in a Gustavo Santaolla soundtrack.
One of the things that interested me most about this release was the way in which the context surrounding it dictates your experience. My patience for what you might deem space-gazing guitar music wears thin at times, yet Hüwels’ consistently minimalist, clearly thought out approach makes Six Pieces For Guitar a considered and mature sounding release. His own movements, and mAtter’s at large I am very much looking forward to tracking over the coming year.