While Annulus is Koeosaeme’s third release on the Ohio-based experimental imprint Orange Milk Records, it’s of a slightly different style than those two previous releases. Sonorant (2017) and OBANIKESHI (2019) were very much in the Orange Milk wheelhouse, sputtering fusillades of random samples and off-kilter beats, resulting in chaotic soundscapes perfectly exemplified by Orange Milk’s usual garish, brightly colorful artwork. But on Annulus, Koeosaeme – real name: Ryu Yoshizawa – executes more of a subtle vibe. Don’t worry, though – it’s still pretty weird.
The album’s cover is a helpful clue that things might be different this time around. It’s a slightly subtle variation on the usual madness that adorns the front of an Orange Milk release. The illustration of a subway commuter in a suit and tie, crouched in pain or despair over the train’s seats, seems abstract but in a slightly more controlled fashion. The painting is by Orange Milk co-founder Seth Graham, who – along with co-founder Keith Rankin – is responsible for most of the label’s art. Yoshizawa is pulling back the throttle a little bit this time, with compositions that are a bit more low-key, at times almost New Age.
Part of this slight stylistic shift is due to some of the music’s inspiration. Annulus is inspired in part by Southeast Asian folk music – from Burma, Thailand, China – resulting in some genuinely startling instrumental passages that give the already deeply layered pieces plenty of contemplative and emotional heft. The opening track, “15202119:10” (all the album’s tracks consist of long numerals, like anonymous audio files), starts with long sustained synth notes, with bits of odd samples, found sound, and bleating snatches of horns thrown in for good measure. But Yoshizawa takes a somewhat lighter approach this time around; the music – while still odd and alien-like – is more measured. The warm marimba and clarinet-like sounds that form the basis of “1520219:44” are almost like a friendly guide, leading the listener through the exotic effects.
Elsewhere, “12920216:48” is rooted in primitive percussion coupled with samples and vocalizing that approach some semblance of Tuvan throat singing. It’s clear that Yoshizawa is reveling in this trip outside his comfort zone as it provides new avenues for him to explore and ply his unusual trade. Percussion also makes up the core sound of “122202115:12″, but it’s more of a synthetic nature, and that tumbles into “212202115:46″, in which Graham garners a collaborative credit.
Annulus closes with the brief, caffeinated “21320219:43″, a sliver of a track clocking in at a little under 90 seconds, featuring thumping percussion, nature sounds, and bright, fleeting outbursts of a flute. It’s one last exciting gasp of an album filled with energy but also plenty of room to breathe. Koeosaeme is an artist with a restless artistic sensibility, and Annulus is yet another side of his vast talents.