BTTB – 20th Anniversary Edition by Ryuichi Sakamoto / by Sergio Díaz De Rojas

By Blake Parker

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Ryuichi Sakamoto has had an immense impact on the world of music from the 1970s to present day. Practically pioneering the Japanese scene of electronic music as a member of the band Yellow Magic Orchestra, and going on to compose an extensive catalogue of film scores, he is a household name at the very least. He has additionally worked as a music producer, actor, visual arts collaborator, and activist, and has been awarded a long list of honors and awards from Golden Globes to MTV Breakthrough Video awards to recognition by the French Ministry of Culture.

Now, under  the renowned Milan Records, Sakamoto releases a celebratory 20th Anniversary Edition of BTTB, a pensive and notably introspective addition to his eccentric and bizarre catalogue at the time of its release in 1998. The new 20th Anniversary Edition offers all the original tracks in a newly remastered form fit for the 21st century. It also brings a brand new music video to the table for the Japanese hit “Energy Flow”.

Personal and intimate music—somebody (an anonymous somebody) sitting alone in front of the school piano early in the morning, weaving a melody, exploring harmonies. Music that gradually fills a space with high ceilings that contains the wafting presence of rain. But music that leaves gaps where necessary. Once in a while, we need music like this and this way of being...no, perhaps all the time. We need it as much as we need hot black coffee at the break of dawn and a cat napping next to us in the afternoon.
— Haruki Murakami

At the time of its release, BTTB (acronym for “back to the basics”) stood out as less aggravated, less wild, and ultimately somewhat underwhelming when compared to the other works Sakamoto had been releasing at the time. However in the present moment, looking back on the album offers a new clarity to these solo piano compositions that may have been missed by the wider audience in 1998. Following a biographical documentary of Sakamoto, “Coda,” released in June of 2018, the 20th Anniversary Edition of BTTB seems smartly fitting of all Sakamoto’s albums to reintroduce into the music world. While most of his works through the years have been aimed outwardly, seeking to push new boundaries in music and explore what is possible, very nearly to the limits of what audiences were prepared to accept as listenable, BTTB was one of the few works that looked inward, breathed slowly, and offered a mirror to listeners rather than a portrait.

With the addition of the new music video for Energy Flow, BTTB is a genuine and powerful installment in Sakamoto’s extensive and ever-growing collection of artistic successes. The music video, entirely colorless, has in itself a beautifully stirring, haunting organic element to video shot without a human soul in sight. Mixing in Sakamoto’s affinity for field recordings with the original track, the visual elements have a parallel style to field-recorded audio. Motion exists in a wonderfully static form throughout the various shots, and sort of visual hum is created in the pacing and subject matter of the video as a whole.

Without a doubt, BTTB’s 20th Anniversary Edition is a revitalization of a wonderfully pensive album created by, simply put, one of the greats in modern music. In the context of a new century, the music takes on further potency than it originally had, and is a delight to hear from beginning to end. BTTB - 20th Anniversary Edition releases in full on March 1st, 2019.