Sakamoto's "async" from 2017 was a gorgeous release I fell in love with that displayed a very emotional, fragile, and intimate vision from the composer. Much of this sound came from the painful feelings surrounding his cancer diagnosis, which has now worsened. "12" offers an even darker, colder, and more isolated sound representative of Sakamoto's recent hardships, a difficult wall of emotion to avoid while listening. Prepare yourself to fall somewhat into his shoes, and although you may be unable to comprehend exactly how he feels, this album will bring you the closest possible.
There is a masterful level of intimacy in Sakamoto's playing that is magnified by these selected recordings. Focusing on his continuous breath allows one to enter a simple and swift meditative state, in which you are gently pulled across each piece by the current. Every note of the piano is defined clearly and played calmly, but Sakamoto still maintains a powerful and lasting presence. The album flows like a straight creek, never taking any turns or chances, although every piece is unique enough in the atmosphere it forms to warrant further investigation.
There is little development that occurs during each recording, likely a parallel to Sakamoto's current life. The beautiful soundscapes each create, however, I find impossible to not fall deep into. There is a lot of thinking to be done on behalf of the listener, as the barren atmospheres rarely demand all attention.
If this is Sakamoto's last studio release, and I hope dearly that it isn't, one could not have asked for anything more fitting. He has an unfathomable amount of beautiful work to look back on, and I'm sure that he feels satisfied with his influence and creative output over the past five decades.
Thank you, Ryuichi Sakamoto, for everything you have done.