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Sakamoto releases album as ‘imaginary soundtrack’

This file photo taken on June 30, 2016 shows Japanese musician, composer, record producer, pianist, activist, writer, actor and dancer Ryuichi Sakamoto posing in Paris. Sakamoto will release on April 28, 2017 a new album, the first in eight years, inspired by Russian director Andrei Tarkovski’s films.JOEL SAGET / AFP

Ryuichi Sakamoto, the pioneering Japanese electronic composer, has announced his first studio album in eight years which is inspired by the Russian film master Andrei Tarkovsky.

The 65-year-old artist — who has scored films including “The Last Emperor,” “Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence” and more recently “The Revenant” — will release the album, “async,” on April 28.

Sakamoto said in a statement by his label that he had been working for several months on the music until, one day in August, he decided that the work would be “the original soundtrack to an imaginary film by Andrei Tarkovsky.”


The composer set the music, composed on an analog synthesizer, to some of his favorite scenes from the Russian director’s films including “Stalker,” “Andrei Rublev,” “Solaris” and “Mirror.”

The album also pays tribute to the director’s father, the poet Arseny Tarkovsky, with his verses recited by David Sylvian, frontman of the British art rock band Japan.

The album took in natural sounds that Sakamoto recorded in ruins and in gardens including rain, wind and footsteps over dry grass, as well as the shamisen, the Japanese three-stringed instrument.

Sakamoto, who lives in New York, said he also went to a museum to work with sound sculptures of Harry Bertoia, the groundbreaking furniture designer.

“It is like climbing a mountain without a path and without a map,” Sakamoto said of the album. “Once you reach the summit, another appears and there is never an end on the horizon.”

Sakamoto, who has broadly explored music from around the world, gained an international following with his Yellow Magic Orchestra.

His fusion of electronic instruments, Japanese and Western classical form and rhythms of West Africa helped shape the basis for synthpop in the 1980s and later house music and hip-hop.

He announced in 2014 that he had been diagnosed with cancer and last year he was shaken by the death of his friend David Bowie, with whom he co-starred in “Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence.”

On a visit to Paris last year, Sakamoto told AFP that he wanted just one thing before death: “To record the perfect album.”


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Ryuichi Sakamoto
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