Released August 2012, the second collaboration by Christopher Willits and Ryuichi Sakamoto, "Ancient Future" (Ghostly International label), marks a vast improvement in listenability after their "Ocean Fire" release on 12k several years ago. "Ocean Fire" was so full of glitchy manipulations that Sakamoto's input was barely recognizable. To me this album wasn't even "music," just a bunch of computer noodling.
Very happy to say, "Ancient Future" is a flowing, serene thing of beauty; the glitchy elements are there, but very minimally this time. The album came about after Sakamoto sent Willits his piano/synth tracks; Willits then added his guitars and self-designed software tools to craft the final album. (By the way, this release is really an "e.p." clocking barely over half an hour). What results is some mighty fine nocturnal soundscapes. Sakamoto's piano floats in a Budd-like reverb throughout, and Willits' guitars often achieve the gorgeous kind of sound that Bill Nelson and David Sylvian got on Sylvian's seminal album "Gone to Earth." The glitchy manipulations are tasteful, used sparingly, and thus interesting this time around. "Ancient Future", with its somewhat stark, moody beauty, at times even reminds me of works on the great modern jazz label ECM.
I'm not too familiar with the work of Christopher Willits, other than the "Ocean Fire" CD before this. A check of his website proclaims he is a "guitar pioneer." That's a pretty bold statement to make from a guitarist most people have never heard of. Nevertheless, I look forward to Willits' future endeavors after this excellent CD. Arguably the more famous Sakamoto is the real pioneer: his integration of electronic music into moving soundtracks such as "Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence" should not be forgotten.
"Ancient Future" is definitely one of the highlights of 2012.