Cover image by Michael Cina. Courtesy Ghostly.

Let me drop journalistic distance for a moment here: the last Willits + Sakamoto outing, teaming up Californian Christopher Willits and Japanese composer/musician Ryuichi Sakamoto, is one of my favorite albums. So I’m thrilled to hear these two are doing another release. Willits’ dreamy, evocative reveries meld perfectly with Sakamoto’s crisp, reflective musical imagination for me.

Let’s have a listen, shall we? Curious to know your comments.

Video compilation:

I’m not one to copy and paste, but as we furiously video insights with SONAR artists – and because I think this one is important – I will break my normal rule. (And because it comes from our friends at Ghostly International and label manager Jeff Owens, you get some thoughtful commentary – not publicity bollocks.)

01. Reticent Reminiscence
02. Abandoned Silence
03. I Don’t Want To Understand
04. Levitation
05. Releasing
06. Completion

Ancient Future, available August 6th (EU/UK) and 7th (worldwide), is the second collaboration between composer and visionary pianist Ryuichi Sakamoto and electronic pioneer Christopher Willits. Built around a series of piano pieces that Sakamoto sent to Willits after the release of the duo’s first record together, 2008’s Ocean Fire, the six tracks that make up Ancient Future are entirely instrumental—and yet, they speak about the very essence of what it means to be human.

As a whole, Ancient Future functions as a piece about the creation, acceptance and completion of one’s fate and all of life’s experiences, following a trajectory through inner conflict, resolution and, ultimately, acceptance. The six-song cycle moves through a narrative of sorts, each piece with a story to tell and an aspect of life to explore.

The album opens with the restless energy of “Reticent Reminiscence”, an energy that subsides into the introversion of “Abandoned Silence” and “I Don’t Want to Understand” and, eventually, the cold disassociation of “Levitation”. A certain warmth returns with “Releasing”, its guitar arpeggios like washes of sunlight, and the album’s journey finally resolves into closing track “Completion”, a piece that’s full of quiescent tranquility, perhaps reflecting the experience of finally coming to know oneself.

Despite its conceptual coherency, contradictions lie at the heart of Ancient Future, as the album title might suggest. Even within the confines of each track, opposing forces are at play—loops of static and feedback provide the backing for delicate melodies that develop and evolve like ripples on a placid lake. And yet the contradictions never feel like conflicts—instead, the diverging elements come together to create something with its own internal logic, perhaps reflecting the way that we are all the sum of our experiences, both light and dark, positive and negative.

  • gunboat_d

    wow.  i am getting this when it comes out.  and i’m jealous of willits.  sakamoto is about as god-like as you can get in “electronic music”

  • Dave Sierkowski

    agreed – wow. this is really well done.

    the mood, the feeling is very reminiscent of whenever I sit down and listen to Eno’s “Music for Airports”. It evokes a calming essence that lets the mind wander in peace.

  • bendish


  • Øivind Idsø

    I was afraid it would sound like this. It’s just too … nice. Too vanilla. Yes, I know, I know, this isn’t supposed to be John Cage or Stockhausen, but it’s like staring at wallpaper. The sounds are so very, very smooth, the harmonies just so harmonic, and for me it’s ambient music for the easy listening crowd. Sorry. But then again, I don’t find Sakamotos electronic, collaborative efforts very interesting, including the ones he has done with one of my favourites – Fennesz. Oh well, we can’t like them all.

    • David

      Fair enough. It is very polished in it’s niceness though. I was marveling how Willits manages to weave his parts in. I was just thinking how Ambient has made harmonies that would embarrass most pop singers somehow musically viable again. It does sometimes leave you gasping for more raunchiness.

      Also, this is one track and if they have any sense it’ll be the lowest common denominator.

  • Jeff