Having to choose a worthy release from all of the many labels and small producers out there has become a notoriously difficult minefield to negotiate. With a panoply of good and great output, down to the downright dodgy, it is comforting to know that certain suppliers have their hand firmly on the quality control button. Step forward Smallfish, whose releases lately are just getting better and better, and one can rely on great material combined with beautifully designed packaging, in highly collectable editions that look great propped up on any CD shelf. Their latest release, Four Fragments, by Japanese minimalist, Ryonkt is something of a rare gem. Ryonkt, a contraction of the artist’s name, Ryo Nakata is a meditation on the sublime and essential elements of minimalism. Nakata deploys the twin staples in the field of electronica, the loop and the drone, effortlessly merging them into a seemingly organic whole, that is, quite simply the personification of elegance. Nakata’s evenly paced pieces strike a middle ground between the earlier ambient works of Pola, combined with a kind of Phil Niblock tonality. Comparisons here are reluctantly made though, as Nakata’s work, although ambient and drone-like, captures something rare and unique, a language and an approach that betrays the sparkle of beckoning genius. The pieces are washed over with delicate, transcendent reverberations, and minute fluctuations and intrusions, a sublime fusion that leaves me suspended for some moments when it finishes, only to reach out and press “repeat” on my player. I am not exaggerating when I say that Nakata is most assuredly destined for greater things, and his work would easily grace the halls of labels like Touch, such is the depth and quality of his work.
In sharp contrast to the work of Ryonkt, although not a million miles away in terms of moody atmospherics is the work of Monostation, whose Tristimulus EP has also just been released by Smallfish. The Monostation boys are now favourites amongst the Smallfish intelligentsia, and little wonder, as their work explores territories fringing the world of ambience and techno. Each track here sounds like the extended introduction to a full-on techno workout, but then kept in check by it’s creators, it creates a delicious tension between swirls of atmospherics, topped with stringed elements from the guitar as on opener, Spectral Locus. Closing track Metamarism is a more expansive ambient drift work, uniting stringed chords with wispy atmospherics, to engender a soft, yet enticing dynamic. Once again, Smallfish, Monosation, Ryonkt – you have not disappointed..these are two incredible 8cm releases that demand the attention of a wider audience. Highly recommended.BGN