Switched On – Akusmi: Fleeting Future (Tonal Union)

reviewed by Ben Hogwood

What’s the story?

Fleeting Future may be the title, but the debut album from Akusmi – aka multi-instrumentalist Pascal Bideau – was actually recorded between 2017 and 2019 in North London.

You would also be hard-pressed to guess the location of the recording, for Akusmi’s music falls heavily under the influence of gamelan writing. For his colourful scores, Bideau linked up with Berlin to include contributions from saxophonist Ruth Jelten, trombone player Florian Juncker and drummer / percussionist Daniel Brandt, of Brandt Brauer Frick.

As well as taking on gamelan principles, Fleeting Future draws on Japanese culture and art for its inspiration. Neo Tokyo is a reference to Katsuhiro Otomo’s Akira, set in a futuristic metropolis, while Yurikamome is an imaginary visit to Japan. Throughout, Bideau brings the worlds of fantasy and future reality into close alignment, writing in a style that suggests the influence of so-called ‘minimalist’ composers.

What’s the music like?

To call this music minimalist would do it a disservice, however – for there is a lot going on here, with bright colours and strong motifs blending in together.

There is also a genuine feeling of excitement coursing through this music, with the spirit of discovery at every turn. The pocket-sized melodies of the title track, placed first, are maximal rather than minimal, with a very strong forward momentum driven by the saxophone and trombone lines. Here Bideau evokes the shorter works of composers such as Michael Torke.

The multilayered Sarinbuana is more complicated, with a taught rhythm section under the watchful eyes of Daniel Brandt and long phrases from the saxophone stretching over the top. Divine Moments of Truth is guitar-based, its counterpoint expanding into more electronic guises, while Neo Tokyo begins with stop-start phrases, quickly picking up potential energy in the manner of a rapidly accelerating train. Longing For Tomorrow brings the rasp of the trombone to the front, while Cogito does the same with a cheery saxophone riff. Concrescence shows off some lovely colours, powered by marimbas but blossoming with rich woodwind.

Does it all work?

It works incredibly well. Bideau’s music has a vitality and verve about it that is all too often lacking with instrumental music, and the jazzy touches around the edges – which sometimes come to the fore – show that he can be relied upon to deliver improvisations of the highest quality too.

Is it recommended?

Yes. One of the freshest albums I have heard in a long time, with a great deal of infectious, positive energy.

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