Entries tagged with “Kid Ailack Art Hall”.


lightSeptember 21st
Erstwhile Records presents
AMPLIFY 2008: light day 3

Kid Ailack Art Hall, Meidaimae, Tokyo, Japan

Disk UnionThe last day of the festival dawned again overcast and rainy.  I’d broken down and bought a cheap umbrella, which I have to say for this Washington State resident felt like a major defeat.  It did make it easier to take pictures and such as I wasn’t getting rain on my camera lenses.  I had again ended up in Shinjuku and on this weekend day they closed down some of the streets and there were people vending everything from yakitori to champagne in the streets.  I wandered around the shopping districts enjoying the varied sights from cosplayers to barkers in front of electronics stores. I randomly found Disc Union and checked out two of their stores, one was three stories of just jazz the other eight stories of varied music. The avant section was of course on the eighth floor.  Some neat stuff there, especially cool to see all of the Obscure Tape Music from Japan series laid out as well Stockhausen-Verlag releases and that amazing Alga Marghen Charllote Moorman set.  Later I found the Tower Records which has an amazing 20th Century classical section. Again I didn’t end up buying anything (the internet kind of makes this moot, unless you find OOP stuff) but great to see these stores packed with obscure music.

I’d spent enough time in Shinjuku that for once I didn’t arrive in Meidaimae all that early.  Early enough though, the hall was still pretty empty when I arrived.  Tonight was all duos the first being amongst the most anticipated sets of this festival by yours truly. Toshi/Keith I’d seen before and of course there are two recorded documents of this duo.  Yoshimura/Yamauchi was sort of an unknown, but I have to admit at this point I was pretty weary of Yamaichi’s playing.  The reports of an earlier collaboration of theirs was highly intriguing though, so I was still cautiously looking forward.  The drizzle that had been pretty persistent this day had now turned into a driving rain, far exceeding the rainfall from the earlier “typhoon”. I thought the rain if audible inside would added to the proceedings, but I don’t really recall hearing it during any of the sets.


Empty Sampler

Keith Rowe/Sachiko M
The third set from Keith this festival, this one a first time duo meeting with Sachiko.  When Jon Abbey first mentioned this duo to me, I said something along the lines of “they’ll have to really push themselves to not make this sound exactly how I imagine it”.  Now how I imagine it would be great music, something I’d enjoy a lot, but I can’t deny that I’d love to see these two exceptional musicians surprise me.  The options that one could pretty easily imagine are; Sachiko providing her trademark long pure tones with Keith working in spikier, more discrete territory above that. Conversely it could be Keith in his laminal sound world providing the ground upon which Sachiko, in Salon de mode, interjects her micro events.  A third option would be both of them working with continuous sound which I think would be the least successful and not something I’d expect (why you ask, well in this realm it would actually rather sound like a Keith solo, as there are times he layers in things that aren’t too dissimilar to a  pure tone). Finally of course would be various combinations of the above.  Well what they ended up doing was none of these and granted me the surprise and delight I was hoping for.

Sachiko did indeed work in the Salon de Sachiko territory with its clicks, pops, short tones and other micro events. Keith though eschewing any droning worked with equally discrete event creating this bristling sound world.  This worked incredibly, tension filled, constantly engaging.  Keith worked with the Brillo pad, with contact mics, with metallic objects but no fan, no radio and no Bluetooth interference.  It was as if the bulk of the tools he’d used to date were set aside so he could focus on the bare essentials. The music was very spacious, events coming into the environment, colliding or not, letting the room provide as much, or more perhaps, of the music as the muscians.  There were intrusions as three times late comers came in and squeezed themselves into spaces at the front and by the door. But this fragmented world of pops, clicks, pongs, sprongs, twitters and hisses allowed these interjections and incorporated them. Like his earlier duo with Unami there was an aspect of exploration, of feeling each other out, but by mostly sticking with a finite realm, almost as if each were playing solo, it never felt tentative. There was a confidence in both their playing, they were working with tools they understood but in a fresh context. They worked with these tiny events, many from Keith seeming inaudible (he later said that he’d practice some gestures, trying them out silently before repeated them at volume) over the course of thirty-forty minutes, constantly moving ahead though these sounds could be the background hiss of stasis.  In the end Sachiko dropped in a few longer tones, inching the development along perfectly. They stopped playing, there was a pause, then one final pop! from Sachiko and the set was over.

This was fantastic music and an incredible set by two giants pushing each other into fresh territory.  It reminded me in parts of Good Morning, Good Night but with Keith not trying to necessarily complement Sachiko but to push it further. The activity was a lot more seething and varied then in that recording and different in that this duo was more contrasting then complementing.  I have to say that this duo’s forthcoming Erstwhile recording is pretty much tops on my anticipation list.

the hands of Yoshimura
The hands of Yoshimura

Katsura Yamauchi/Mitsuhiro Yoshimura
After seeing Yamauchi solo twice and in duo with Nakamura it really seemed like he was doing the same thing every set. There was always a bit of a surprise from him: the jazz numbers the first show and those blasted tones at the first night of Amplify. In general though it seemed like he had a formula and was sticking to it.  Now as I intimated earlier this duo has occurred before and it was one of their earlier performances that led to Yamauchi’s inclusion in this festival. So it is possible that he had a different shtick that he saved for use in this duo.  Yoshimura was against the far left wall with his mic literally turned against the wall. He also was working with only one set of headphones in contrast to his solo set. It again was pretty dark as they started, a light on Yamauchi and his alto but Yoshimura again in near darkness.

I was only one seat from the wall on this day, so I was quite close to Yoshimura which turned out to be to my advantage as his sound was much quieter then it was the night prior.  He generated his high thin wail of feedback and would simply modulate it by careful manipulations of the headphones.  Yamauchi I’m sad to say ran through the exact same series of events he had done on the three previous sets I’d seen.  He started with the hissy breathing, moved to the near circular breathing rattly metallic sound, then the key clicking and finally looped around to the dry hisses. I honestly got bored in this set and it felt like it went on way too long. The dry hisses worked the best with Yoshimura’s sound but I’d tired of the routine. From what others told me Yoshimura was nearly inaudible further away so even these small moments of nicely contrasting sounds was limited to only a few of us. This for me was musically the least interesting set of the festival, my expectations had been quite low and even those weren’t met.

empty nimb

Keith Rowe/Toshimaru Nakamura
Concluding the festival was the Erstwhile supergroup of Keith Rowe and Toshimaru Nakamura.  Their first album Weather Sky was the musical document that shifted my interest in this area of music from tentative dabbling to full on obsession.   I’d saw them live once before at ErstQuake 2, where they produced an enjoyable if not very exciting set.  Their second album, between, was the first time an Erstwhile project had been revisited and it amply demonstrated two artists that were not standing still. These two consummate musicians know each other inside and out and push each other constantly and I think are about as reliable a duo working in music today. So it wasn’t too surprising that they headlined the entire festival, but the surprise was in the music that they produced.

The began right off with loud aggressive waves of feedback and grinding industrial metallic attacks.  This wasn’t a simple burst of energy, they took these loud sounds and worked with them, pushing them further and further. It was in the realm of 13630 kHz from between but longer and denser then that track.  This slowly morphed into this completely insane post-industrial sound world at one point sounding like nothing more then a massive warehouse filled with and infinite number IBM Selectric typewriters being assaulted by an infinite number of monkeys. On crack.  Incredibly mechanical and industrial sounding.  But the set wasn’t simply aggressive mechanical sounds, at many points one or both would drop out leaving sounds hanging in the air and revealing the underpinnings of the affair. After the aforementioned Selectric section Keith turned off some fans, Toshi dropped out and you could hear this crazed chittering of Bluetooth interference which combined with those other activities had created that maddening effect.  Toshi brought it back up with dense rips and tears of feedback that cut through these sounds but were never allowed to fall into any sort of pattern. Keith cut the Bluetooth interference and worked more with abusing his pickups with various objects.  Again a dense wall of sound was created, again it was cut back bringing this to a point of near total silence at this juncture.  A sine wave from Toshi wailed through this space as Keith ground his pickups with the Brillo pad and used the contact mic on his charcoal pencils as he drew a few characters on his pad. Again it fell to near silence, this piece was structurally dynamic and they were really working their full ranges.  A very low pitched stutter in this space, probably from Toshi, a hiss of static then things were brought to a conclusion.

and in the end
Keith and Toshi after the festival

They stood up and Keith thanked Jon and Yuko for putting on this incredible event and then us, the audience:  “The music doesn’t happen without you” and also the room. Which was well deserved, Kid Ailack Art Hall is a cramped tight black box but damn if this kind of music doesn’t sound amazing in it. The smallest details were revealed and the loudest attacks never turned into mush.  It reinforced sounds but didn’t just bounce them all over the place. A great room for this music and the musicians in this festival fully took advantage of it. Toshi then translated Keith’s words, perhaps adding some of his own and that was it, AMPLIFY 2008: light, was official over.

This festival was probably the single most successful event of this type I have attended.  The percentage of fantastic music was very high and even the sets that I didn’t think were entirely successful were incredibly fascinating. There was really only one set I’d say I didn’t like and even that had its moments.  Keith’s four sets were all amazing, as good of music as I’ve heard all year, or the last couple of years. It is not a surprise to me that Jon was willing to release all of these sets. The festival was ran impecciably with no issues seeming to impact any of the music or related events.

After each night of shows we’d head to the Book Cafe below the venue and drink wine, eat great food, and chat until the last train of the night.  This is a great tradition and something that really should be adapted outside of Japan.  I had great conversations with Keith, Jon, Toshi, Yamauchi, Mark, Joe and a number of other fans. I got to talk a little bit with most of the other musicians and members of the extended community. Truly a remarkable experience that was rewarding on so many levels.  I especially enjoyed all the time I got to spend with Keith, with whom I had breakfast every morning and shared many a walk and train ride with.  Additionally I highly enjoyed the time I got to spend with Jon and Yuko – it was great to be able to see them as much as I did. Finally sharing these shows and the uchiage with IHM friends Mark and Joe was all kinds of good times, something I hope happens more often.  So thanks to Jon and Yuko for bringing us this and thanks to all of the musicians for the fantastic music and extra-special thanks to Yuko for all the help in Japanese which my skills are non-existent.

see all of my  Amplify08 photos.

read all of my Amplify08 Reviews.

Outside Shows

September 17th (Wednesday)

Katsura Yamauchi/Toshi Nakamura

Monnaka Tenjo Hall, Monzennakamachi, Tokyo.
7:30pm 2,000 yen.

September 18th (Thursday)
Toshimaru Nakamura

Kid Ailack Art Hall, Meidaimae, Tokyo.
8:00pm

Amplify 2008: Light

September 19 – 21, 2008

Kid Ailack Art Hall, Meidaimae, Tokyo, Japan

7pm, 3000 yen per night
Erstwhile Records
presents Amplify08

September 19th (Friday)
Katsura Yamauchi solo

Keith Rowe/Taku Unami

Ami Yoshida/Toshimaru Nakamura

September 20th (Saturday)
Mitsuhiro Yoshimura solo

Sachiko M solo (contact mike only)

Keith Rowe solo

September 21st (Sunday)
Keith Rowe/Sachiko M

Katsura Yamauchi/Mitsuhiro Yoshimura

Keith Rowe/Toshimaru Nakamura

I’m off to Japan for almost two weeks, to see the above shows and to finally visit a country I’ve wanted to visit for ages.  So there’ll be no posts here for a while, but expect reports on the shows and travel experiences upon my return. If any of my readers are going to be attending any of these shows, say hi. I’ll be the guy in the hat. For more info on the festival go to Erstwhile Records Amplify08 page.