Boomkat Product Review:
Stunning HD environmental recordings and surrealist text-to-speech vocals from Japan’s Nozomu Matsumoto, once again working in collaboration with installation/performance artist Nile Koetting for a liquid, augmented reality that’s essential listening if you’re into anything from Hiroshi Yoshimura to TCF, Elysia Crampton to Sam Kidel.
'Remain Calm' sounds like a natural successor to Japan's run of 1980s "Kankyō ongaku" (environmental) albums, merged with a crisped, cyberpunk dystopia. The lengthy two-side composition was assembled for a three-day performative exhibition from Nile Koetting, inspired by Japan's rigorous fire and evacuation drills intended to prepare the public for natural disasters; earthquakes, tsunamis etc.. Koetting draws parallels between these drills and personal security technology (smart doorbells etc), and tasked Matsumoto with overlaying familiar app-era sonic markers (notification dings, unlocking sounds) onto the powerful thrum of natural disasters.
The result sounds like a futuristic videogame-style reconstruction of an extinction level event, with Matsumoto cleverly interspersing his sound design with calming compositional elements, from jazz piano to new age electronix. Despite its ostensibly calming components, there’s something undeniably unsettling about re-contextualising soothing sounds as a soundtrack for potential armageddon. The spinechilling text-to-speech vocals only serve to bolster Matsumoto's labyrinthine narrative storytelling; plasticity and inauthenticity grafted onto bare realism - crashing waves and calm vistas spiked with skymall electronics, disrupted by cellphone hold music. At its best, 'Remain Calm' sounds as if it might have been generated by a DALL-E style AI generator that's been fed random words to belch out its very best approximation of the real world.
If James Ferraro's "Far Side Virtual" was an accurate approximation of the world's hyper-consumer reality in 2011, "Remain Calm" is the sound of online constructs buckling under the pressure of uncontrollable environmental forces. It's a sobering, mind-unravelling listening experience that subverts the Ambient experience, highlighting the absurdity of numbing music in the face of existential dread.
Bit genius this one.