Entries tagged with “Monnaka Tenjo Hall”.

September 17th (Wednesday)
Katsura Yamauchi/Toshimaru Nakamura
Monnaka Tenjo Hall, Monzennakamachi, Tokyo.

izakayaMy first day in Japan was mostly devoted to travel and sleep though I did have a pleasant evenings nightcap with Keith Rowe at a little izakaya just down the road from our hotel.  This would actually be a pretty typical experience for my trip to Japan: there were no English speakers there but they were plenty happy to work things out by pointing and gestures. Thankfully beer in Japanese is biiru, so easy enough to stumble upon. We ended up with a couple of cold draft beers and a selection of tempura.  Our goal was to simply stay up late enough to try to go to bed in the Japan nighttime and it worked well enough.  Of course I did end up waking up around 5am and not really getting back to sleep.

Once day dawned I walked around Musashino City for a couple of hours checking out the surroundings which including several malls, a temple with a graveyard and a more traditional open shopping area. In the latter I found a Post Office which is one of the few places you are guaranteed to find an international cash machine. I was in need of cash so this was welcome.  Later I met Keith for breakfast followed by another walk around town. A short nap after that and it was time to meet Keith, Jon and Yuko for dinner followed by the first of two outside shows.  Dinner was at an excellent tonkatsu restaurant that Yuko recommended. Fantastic miso and while they stuck with the tonkatsu I enjoyed huge prawn katsu.

Monnaka Tenjo Hall

I had come to Japan primarily for Erstwhile Records Amplify 2008: Light, festival but prior to this fest was two nights of outside shows. Tonight’s show, not really associated with the festival but featuring two of its participants, was the only night at a different venue, Monnaka Tenjo Hall. This venue turned out to be an oddly shaped cement room on the 8th floor (IIRC) overlooking a freeway and some quality Tokyo street scenes. Decent sized and setup for theatre this was a nice room to see some live music.  The evenings program was Katsura Yamauchi and Toshimaru Nakamura in a classic solo, solo, duo format. Coming in with Jon and Keith I managed to avoid the cover charge: connections baby ;)

Television Power ElectricThere was a wide variety of merchandise spread out on a table in the back of the room, a collection of maybe 20 chairs and in the front Nakamura’s setup and on the floor Yamauchi’s saxes.  There wasn’t too much merch that I didn’t have barring a bunch of Yamauchi’s discs, but I wasn’t really familiar enough with his work to start acquiring those blind.  I did end up picking up a TV Pow/Toshimaru Nakamura collaboration that I didn’t have that came in beautiful homemade paper wrapping with an obi type binding holding it together. After a bit of time to allow stragglers in and to shift some merch there was an introduction and then Yamauchi came to the stage picked up his alto and began his solo set.

saxesHe began with this hollowed breathing sound, essentially blowing through the sax and even fingering at times but generating no recognizable sax like sounds. Of course for fans of abstract music these sounds were fairly recognizable and I would say in general his extended techniques were fairly routine. The question of course is how one uses them and he tended to stick with a technique for some time, exploring it at length before shifting to another one.  The whispery breathing sounds began to take on a bit of depth and as he approached perhaps the very edge of the more recognizable sax sound-world he generated this fantastic hollow metallic tone. He was in dire need of being able to circular breath as he’d take a deep breath through his nose and then generate a continuous sound for as long as he could and then gasp in more air.  This provided almost a rhythmic structure to this part but I think actual circular breathing would succeed better at the effect he was after.  Alas he only worked the metallic hollow sound for a couple of minutes and then moved to a keying the sax with no sound section. This was again quite rhythmic, almost as if he was playing some jazz standard or some such without any sound.  He concluded this piece by returning to the gentle hisses and rustling breathy tones he opened with.

After the applause he addressed the audience (all of this is of course in Japanese as Jon, Keith and myself were the only non-native speakers there) and then proceeded to play about five short pieces from his new cd, one of which he played on sopranino.  These turned out to be very traditional jazz sounding solo sax. Almost could have been a set of standards.  Very odd and unexpected for me.  Not my kind of thing really.

Toshimaru Nakamura’s setup

Immediately after the end of this set Toshimaru Nakamura moved to the stage, sat down and began to play. This was my first time seeing Nakamura solo (an event which would repeat tomorrow night) and was something I was definitely curious about. I’ve rarely been impressed with his solo recordings but with his recent impressive Dance Music, my expectations had shifted a bit. He began with white noise into which he’d intersperse ripping feedback.  Not overly aggressive but contrasting to the bed of static.  One of these however did become quite loud and upon this occurrence he cut everything out and silence fell. He allowed a decent interval, perhaps a minute or so, before he began dropping in electronic pops and crackles as you often hear in open circuit playing.  He built back up from this again, layering in the white noise and later a sine wave cutting though.  A return to the ripping feedback to conclude the set.  All of this occurred over maybe 15 minutes, perhaps less.

There was a break a this point which I for one used to run outside and find one of the ubiquitous vending machines and I bought a bottle of juice, which I downed immediately, and a bottle of water for later.  It was humid and I was always thirsty, so I count myself a big fan of Japan’s vending machine culture.  After a fifteen-twenty minute break the musicians took to the stage for their duo set.

Katsura Yamauchi/Toshimaru Nakamura

Yamauchi kicked off the set exactly as he had his solo set, with the dry hisses of air through the alto’s resonating chamber. He then proceeded in exactly the same structure, moving from the wind in the autumn leaves sound, to the the more continuous hollow sound reaching that long tones and gasps of air bit. Again that generated that neat metallic sound but it was odd to see him go through the same motions.  Of course there was also Nakamura adding an additional layer of sound to these events which after an initial pause were in the open circuit glitching territory.  These events were well applied pricks of contrasting sound to the windy sounds that Yamauchi was working with.  These coalesced into a more steady state sound that was mostly lost under Yamauchi’s rhythmic breathing/metallic sounds but were brought to the fore as Yamauchi abruptly stopped playing. This was my favorite moment of this piece, the sudden absence of his sound and a thin hiss and glitching pops and tears from Nakamura suddenly springing to the foreground.  Yamauchi paused for a nice stretch, perhaps expecting Nakamura to conclude but when he did not he moved on to the rhythmic key playing.  Nakamura brought up the volume at this point with rips and tears of feedback.  He cut this out, Yamauchi dropped out again and after a gap Nakamura played a single tone and then stopped ending the set.

I thought they were done at this point and began jotting down some notes as Yamauchi again spoke to the audience. But then he grabbed the sopranino and began playing one of his jazz pieces.  A coda of sorts I thought but then Nakamura began playing along with this. Bizarre.  Yamauchi is doing fast runs and trills and Nakamura just pops and glitches. But then Toshi begins to pick it up becoming louder and more aggressive with sharp bursts of feedback and static.  Rather like his playing on 13630 kHz from Between.  Yamauchi keeps up with his rapid, free jazzish runs but either reaching the end of the tune or just unable to compete with the electronics stops playing. Nakamura keeps it up for a bit and then cuts out the tears of feedback to reveal a continuous baseline tone. He lets this go for maybe a minute and then cuts it out ending this short followup piece.

Overall I wasn’t too impressed with this night of music.  Yamauchi I thought had some interesting sounds but I wasn’t really into the structure that he’d develop. I definitely wasn’t into his jazz playing, which of course one could say is a matter of taste but I tend to not seek out those kind of shows. Unexpected but interesting I guess to hear what his other work is like.  Nakamura’s solo was quite short and hence hard to really form much of an opinion on.  Again it seemed to not really have much structure. It felt like he setup some sounds and as he lost control of the feedback, cut it out and started over. This “second part” was more successful but it really just ran from soft and sparse to increasingly dense and louder. And of course it was really short, 5-10 minutes out of the whole performance.  The first piece of the duo was better, but would have been better still if there had not been the solos prior as the two of them basically were doing about the same things they had just done.  They didn’t seem connected at all, Yamauchi in particular just reprising the sequences from his solo and Nakamura falling right into the  comfortable accompanist role that marked some of his lesser collaborations from the previous year.  Then there was that bizarre final piece which honestly was the most surprising.  Yamaichi’s jazz piece obliterated by Nakamura’s electronics. It wasn’t at all good, but it was unexpected and different.

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.

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.