Sawako – bitter sweet (12k, 2008)

Last November I found myself on the last day of a work trip with some hours to kill before our evening flight home. I hadn’t had an opportunity to get into the sea that week because we’d just been too busy so we headed down to the beach first thing before we had to check out. It was already another bright and hot day in the Caribbean, the sky an endless blue lid, punctuated only by the constant stream of airplanes overhead flying into the airport next door.

I laid my towel and sunglasses down and walked across the dazzlingly white sand, through the breakers at the edge and into the water, just out to where I couldn’t quite touch the bottom anymore, and tilted myself back to bob languidly on the surface. With a few gentle wafts of my arms I turned away from the shore to face nothing, just open ocean to nowhere, the horizon gently rising and falling as I rode in waves of turquoise crystal.

It’s in those moments you experience empty-headedness: weightless, suspended in the water column right at the interface between sea and sky, held at the boundary in warm, almost baptismal, waters. There’s nothing and no one else, just me.

If you had to pour those sparkling wavelets and cobalt air and luminous clouds and pure sands and waving palms and rum punches into an album, it would probably beĀ bitter sweet. A record that moves from one twinkling piece of rarified ambience to the next. “tsubomi, saku” and mid-record “h u g b u g” shimmer across gossamer strands of synth, the latter in particular evoking clearly one staring at light rippling at the bottom of a pool or in shallow sea in its aqueous muffling.

Elsewhere, elongate and mesmeric “looped labyrinth, decayed voice” moves in a cyclic dreamlike trance state, its own synthetics not yet fully formed as birds tweet distantly from the waterfront as we bob our way back to atmosphere. Instrumentation enters delicately in other moments, with standout sophomore “april ~ from sea shell” slowly unfolding on relaxed chords to just watch the day emerge, to later have its idiosyncrasies reappear in the clearer closer “a last next”. It just underscores the peaceful evocations of the record, marking the moment where we step from the water into the steamy sunlight and reintegrate with real life again at its conclusion.

I certainly used too many adjectives and synonyms to say all that, but sometimes sound calls for description that’s complicated and specific, and in these cool and wet British Summer evenings I’m glad to still have a sonic tether to floating happily in the Caribbean in Sawako’s timeless ambiences.