Album Review: Akusmi – Fleeting Future : pulsating electro-acoustic conversations with Fourth World sensibilities.

The Breakdown

‘Fleeting Future’ is a record that aims to transport and elevate with live instrumentation, an electronic undercurrent and an attention to the finest detail in the layered production - a significant addition to the Fourth World canon.
Tonal Union 8.9

I want the future now’ pronounced Peter Hammill on one of his late seventies solo outpourings. Scroll forward almost half a century and producer/electronic musician Pacsal Bideau has been exploring his own avenue of future thinking. If you put him in a room with the old prog-curmudgeon, he might quiz Pete about which version of the years ahead he had in mind. As Pascal observes in the digital age ‘any prediction is now totally obsolete… there is not one future but innumerable ones all cancelling each other. That’s what makes it fleeting.’

It’s such limitless ideas that have inspired Bideua’s solo debut as Akusmi, fittingly titled ‘Fleeting Future’ and available on Tonal Union from 24th June. The connection between such post-modern ponderings and Akusmi’s intensely intricate gamelan influenced electronica may seem tenuous but there is some fundamental thinking going on here. Travelling through Indonesia Bideau became immersed in its traditional music and the way that small shifts in structure could create greater change to the whole. So here was a musical parallel to the data-shaped unpredictability that we face today – a fleeting future indeed.

All this conceptual circularity may be intriguing but its real value lies within the damn fine music that it has incited. Put together between his home studio in London and with key contributions from Berlin based musicians Florian Juncker (trombone), Ruth Velten (saxophone) and Daniel Brandt (drums / electronic percussions), ‘Fleeting Future’ is very much alive with vibrant electro-acoustic dialogue.

The opening title track captures the dynamism of these conversations immediately. It’s a piece that draws you into a world of sound which flourishes as you listen from the first seeds of single sax notes onto the blossoming crescendo of billowing electronica. Informed by gamelan complexities, the tune ripples out into a swelling wash of synths, brass, strings and turbulent drumming, realising the same hope and possibility of any classic Penguin Café work out.

As a composition ‘Fleeting Future’ is indicative of the way that Akusmi music works within the parameters of its influences, drawing from them with integrity but refusing to get dragged down by the discipline. Any whisper of gamelan and electronic music in the same description can suggest a soundscape that thrives on mechanism, complexity and to some degree certainty. This album is nothing like that, as a piece of work ‘Fleeting Future ‘stands out as visceral, unpredictable and warmly human.

Want proof then you’ve got it with ‘Sarinbuana’. Burbling into life with some avant garde fragmentation, the tune travels through its various habitats with an exquisite ease and assurance. From processional beats to clattering sax driven no-wave stomp to a mid section pause for Juncker and Velten’s chamber jazz exchange, you sometimes wonder where you are heading. When it comes, with the rising urgency of a Jaga Jazzist scale crescendo, the resolution is stunningly complete,

The frenetic ‘Neo Tokyo’ represents another pivotal moment in the album’s dynamic progress. Referencing Katsuhiro Otomo’s manga classic ‘Akira’, the cut zips and zooms with the accelerated, tense pace of the imaginary metropolis that it is sound-tracking. Pumping, pulsing and industrial, the rapid cycle of staccato horns, synths and gong only subsides momentarily before returning bass driven and horn blasted. What ‘Neo Tokyo’ highlights is the inspired way that Akusmi has merged all the elements he has at his disposal. The living instrumentation of played brass and percussion is key to the music’s personality but so too is the electronic undercurrent and the attention to the finest detail in the layered production.

This may all sound dense and weighty but there is an agility and playfulness to the music on ‘Fleeting Future’. ‘Cogito’ introduces airy, skipping sax patterns before swinging joyfully to the physicality of bass and drum. Even the straighter gamelan derived ‘Concrescene’ reaches a heady swirl where the swelling banks of instruments repeating the same key phrase finds you hearing tunes that probably aren’t even there. Akusmi also likes to spring surprises from the sprinkle of tumbling piano and off-kilter organ in the pounding ‘Longing For Tomorrow’ to the plucked guitars and buzzing 80’s synth on ‘Divine Moment of Truth’. Darkwave this is not…

Above all Akusmi’s ‘Fleeting Future’ is a record that aims to transport and elevate, carrying that momentum through to the closing track ‘Yurikamome’ Named after a Japanese monorail train line and shaped by watching YouTube vids of a carriage window view, it propels you through a trim switchback of synth patterns. Pulses build, rhythms cross, bass lines judder, and locomotive drums rumble while a gliding sax melody swoops above all the forward motion. It’s a fitting conclusion to an uplifting set of music that urges you on. The premise of ‘Fleeting Future’ may be uncertainty but what Akusmi raises here is that this brings excitement and wonder all of its own, just like the album he has produced. This is a significant addition to the Fourth World canon.

Get your copy of ‘Fleeting Future’ by Akusmi from your local record shop or direct from:

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