Toshimaru Nakamura/English
One Day (Erstwhile Records)

This album was among the first to reach my ears in 2008 and thus is one of the albums I have spent the longest amount of time with. I was immediately taken with this album, enough so that I did a rare full review of it.  Thus this entry is going to kind of be a “bye” – I don’t really have  much more to say. This works out as this falls on a day of travel for me, I am writing this in-route to visit family. So while I’m mainly just going to point interested punters in the direction of my previous examination of this album, there are I think a few points of new business.

One thing that often comes up w/r/t music, especially that of an experimental bent is the issue of longevity.  Perhaps its because I don’t buy every release in this area, or get any free discs sent to me I instead choose what I’m going to buy fairly carefully and then spend a decent amount of time with it.  Sure sometimes I’m pretty quickly turned off, or I miscalculated or other circumstances conspire against me, but I’d say that in the main the albums I really like get dozens of listens in a year.  I think that if you listen to an album a couple of times, or even a half dozen times and then move on you can review it a lot more superficially, in a “I like how this sounds” sort of vein.  That is to say issues of how it holds up aren’t really encountered.  Short reviews lend themselves to this as well I think, which is why perhaps brevity is not my hallmark.  If you are really delving into something, it takes a lot to actually examine it.  Context needs to be established, some attempt to communicate the content and ideally some analysis of some sort.  This all takes time and a constant stream of releases makes that impossible.  A small number of well researched in-depth reviews is a lot more valuable in my mind then dozens of short superficial quick hits, because you get to the issue of longevity.

I’ve listened to One Day twice over the last day or so in preparation for it’s “day” and I have to say I still find it as striking as I did in March when I first heard it.  What I find particularly captivating in this disc is its restraint.  English (Joe Foster and Bonnie Jones) have been known to generate some pretty wild sounds, barely on the edge of control flirting at the boundaries of noise and more deliberate musics.  Risky, chaotic stuff roiling with unexpected sounds and incongruities. While there are the occasional outbursts here, especially in ‘The Color Of‘, its nature is one of stasis, especially in the opener ‘Ong Time‘.  This in itself is a bit misleading as on the surface it comes across as static, but this stasis is built up of a series of micro-events that through remarkable control and restraint stay in a finite dynamic range and create this sensation.  There is a tentativeness to this first meeting between the new kids and the old hand, as if they didn’t want to screw this up.  But that tentativeness was displayed as that remarkable restraint which ended up creating something that is unique in its way.

Nakamura here seems to have fallen back into slightly older patterns here, working partly in his accompanist role he took on a lot last year but at the same time stepping up where the music needs a push. Again restraint.  It reminds me a bit of his work in his duos with Keith Rowe in that the two of them feed of each other and push each other into ever new territory.  Here it seems like Nakamura starts off as he had so many times in 2007, generating a static bed for his partners, but then English subvert this by displaying equal restraint. So he brings it up a bit, never aggressive, never dominating or going too far. But pushing just a bit and thus English ease up a bit and slip in a bit of their wilder side.  The results of this are remarkable: probing, testing and always stretching things further. Structurally this is a bit old school – you can say that this is how almost all great improv of the “make a group of these players who’ve never played together before” conceit works. Feel each other out a bit hesitantly and then push it as far as it will work.  The strategies here though make this more interesting and I think results in it’s depth and that is what makes it constantly rewarding to listen to.

For more on this album read my previously published in-depth review.