Saito Koji
Guitar Loop Is My Life






An album with a clear-cut, precisely formulated title doesn’t necessarily demand a review, let alone an in-depth analysis of its aesthetic realization, but in case of Japanese guitarist and synth-tweaker Saito Koji’s Guitar Loop Is My Life, I’m more than willed to take the chance of doing exactly that. Released in October 2014 on Gavin Catling’s Perth, Australia-based Twice Removed label and part of the last batch of artifacts to come to fruition before the label is relaunched with a new concept and name, the six-track guitarscape can be purchased and streamed at Bandcamp. The disc is housed in a recycled card sleeve with an attached image and an insert made of handmade Mulberry paper from Thailand. Guitar Loop Is My Life is a very contingent release and comes with a clever twist, no matter its crystal clear title: in lieu of a diffractive array, diaphanous interstices and orange sunbeams are worshipped. And instead of incidental drone washes, one loop forms the base of each track and is then repeated for exactly ten minutes. Depending on the length of the loop, it is repeated differently, but that the listener is encountering a loop-based Ambient track is always a given. This element helps Saito Koji’s release to gain traction in the already crowded field of guitar-based Drone cataracts. In addition, his primary instrument is always recognizabls, neither diluted nor masked. Guitar Loop Is My Life fathoms the vivacity and textural range of the instrument and ostracizes the synth. In order to protrude, it is the loop that becomes the all-important standout feature. If it was a boring loop, a whole track would be destroyed, so here is a more meticulous look at the six revisions.


The first cautious beams of light are peeking through the bleak nothingness before the hexangular flower blooms by means of Saito Koji’s stringed signature instrument: the first cornerstone of Guitar Loop Is My Life soothingly oscillates between piercing sinews, slapped decay decortications and a gyring sustain whose fibrillar afterglow illumines even the most fragile interim state. The textural range itself is willfully narrowed, for it is the interplay of the various surface areas, phantom frequencies and abyssal tercets that shall drive the listener’s attention. Opalescent, slightly rural and eminently benignant, loop 1 is an almost tangible diorama. The second loop meanwhile delineates the process of warmth even further. More streamlined, akin to an erbaceous plateau, Saito Koji increases the golden aureoles via less punchy, more silkened twangs. Elasticized and prolonged, their fadeout is granular and viscid at once, inheriting the lightness of a bucolic summer breeze. The loop itself lasts about 50 seconds and is repeated 18 times or so, but boredom is far away, luckily banned by the vanillarific veils of aggrandized pulchritude. The third amalgamation of loops is similarly oneiric, comprising of comparatively fast melodic patterns with shorter sustain phases. While the base frame is again realized via a saccharified and seemingly nature-based floralcy, glacial sine tones sneak into the vernal chromaticity, adding an energetic vibe to Koji’s cotyledon.


The fourth installment invokes the archetypical proto-ruralism for the first time that is usually closely attached to modern producers from the Eastern side of the world, whether they are called Sima Kim, Quoi or 3+. Not necessarily reliant on J-Pop, loop #4 shines in fluorescent colors. The droning, heavily sustained convulsions are not complex at all, however, their heterodyned timbres are for sure. Incisively radiant streams of aerose metals meet with cauterized rivulets and etiolated adjuvants. That this incarnation is not perceived as sluiced out is the achievement of the pristine strings and their lucid luminescence. The following fifth loop seems to mediate between the icicle meltdowns and sylvan undercurrents; multiplexing sylphlike strata and dropping a deep interpolating chord in the right moments, this loop exudes contentment in its most contemplative moments and epiphanic auspiciousness through the quasi-impermeable layer serration. The cautious reverb of the lower frequency droplets adds plasticity to the intrinsic immediacy, therefore spawning an allure of controlled liveliness. The sixth and final loop does not break out of the endemic focal point, but it is here where Saito Koji’s guitar aphorism leaves the earthen gravitas and floats into an aquatic-aerial dithery space. Fluttering strings, coruscating strumming, gossamer drone streamlets altogether inherit a spatial wideness which is then poured into a pressure chamber as simulated by the flickering micro-oscillations. Hibernal but ablaze with rubicund sunset aureoles, Guitar Loop Is My Life winds down with this epicurean picture firmly attached to this final iteration.


Saito Koji’s album, while self-explanatory enough to make any deeper description of its title superfluous, delivers the promise that is attached to its connotative meaning: not only are these guitar loops the Japanese artist’s forte, they are life itself within the aesthetical boundaries of the album. There is only one injected source that is not based on this susurrant string moiré, and that’s neither a synth nor a music box but the omnipresent silence – or blackness – wafting through the moulds and cracks. It is strange to pay attention to a non-textural entity in the context of this album, but the backdrop of nullity allows the emanating guitar-based colors to glow, boosting their luminosity to the maximum, and in this regard, the front artwork does point to the right direction. I could – and will – say it less prosaically: minimalism turns the attention to the guitar layers. And Saito Koji truly delves into the self-imposed concept which is more of a manifesto than a difficult endeavor. Whether it is bosky freshness, icy sine caverns or a superimposition of both timbres at once, the guitarist focuses on a stringent listening experience, making this album an epitome for guitar lovers who are more fond of the instrument’s realness than a post-processed camouflage operation.


Further listening and reading:

  • You can purchase the limited edition and stream the digital incarnation at Bandcamp
  • Label boss Gavin Catling tweets: @twiceremovedrec


Ambient Review 381: Saito Koji – Guitar Loop Is My Life (2014). Originally published on Oct. 8, 2014 at