Entries tagged with “Sachiko M”.



Choi Joonyong/Hong Chulki/Sachiko M/Otomo Yoshihide Sweet Cuts, Distant Curves (Balloon & Needle)

Like many of the EAI scenes the Korean contingent welcomes outside voices and frequently hosts musicians from all over. With it’s near proximity there have been many collaborations with Japanese musicians and there seems to have been a bit of cross pollination between the two groups.  In 2006 Sachiko M and Otomo Yoshihide came to Seoul and played as Filament and in various ad hoc groupings with local improvisers(4).   This included the quartet of Sachiko and Otomo with Choi Joonyong and Hong Chulki who subsequently made a studio recording which was released as this disc.

And there was no Korean noise-related music back then. So discovering Japanoise like Merzbow and Masonna was a big influence for starting Astronoise.(1)

Choi and Hong moved into improvisation from an initially noisier background and it seems to have been collaborations with visiting musicians that moved them into the more deliberate and less aggressive forms of improvisation they seem to focus on now. They still incorporate a lot of those harsher sounds into their work, but with a much greater emphasis placed upon the sounds then upon the energy that is often more of the focus in noise. In a large part I think that the tools that these two in particular, but also many other Korean improvisers, seem to favor shape what they do.

I think we’re likely to use sound reproducing machine because they are easy to find, and maybe because we’re not that good at playing real musical instruments (laugh). If any machine has an input and output, we just plug it onto itself and make a feedback loop, or open it to mess with it. As for me, I got inspired by turntable artists like Otomo Yoshihide and Christian Marclay. I had the idea to use a CD-player like a turntable, but not the way you would use a CDJ-machine. (1)

Appropriating consumer electronics in this fashion leads to unpredictable and often out of control results. While this is fairly easy to shape into a barrage of noise it is much more difficult to sculpt into the precise ultra-controlled realm of EAI.  This also seems like a further iteration of the use of electronics in this realm, first it was instruments that were approached differently (prepared guitars, feedback saxophone and the like) then it was tools of music production that was subverted (mixers, turntables, samplers), then appropriated electronics (circuit bent guitar pedals, homemade synthesizers, open circuit manipulation) and now the application of many of these principles to consumer electronics.

I do little bending or making short circuit of CD-players, but I often end up breaking it (laugh). Yes, I touch the print board with tiny screwdrivers, but these days I’m trying to use CD-players’ innate sound such as the spinning sound or the sound of lens pickup moving.(1)

This subversion of electronics is quite clearly in the lineage of their collaborators on this disc, Sachiko M and Otomo Yoshihide.  There has been a long tradition of using the turntable beyond how it is used in DJ and hip-hop circles and Otomo has been a major figure in this movement. Combine this with his use of guitar in a post Keith Rowe fashion he really represents a fairly long continuation of adventurous exploration of musical tools. Likewise Sachiko M is an influential pioneer of electronics repurposing beginning with her unorthodox, though more standard, use of the sampler with Otomo’s Ground Zero project eventually abandoning its essential nature by just using its sine wave test samples. As progressive as this pair has been there has been a certain listlessness in their work for the last couple of years.  This was reflected differently from the two of them, Sachiko just seeming to lose interest and not foraging ahead in new projects or collaborations, while Otomo threw himself into more and more work that seemed less and less creative and thought through.

Sachiko I feel has returned to form as evidenced by her excellent solo Salon de Sachiko (Hitorri) which was recorded a year after this collaboration.  Sachiko is such a meticulous improviser that even during this somewhat listless period she would play in established groups (such as Filament and Cosmos) and the music would always be rock solid, often fantastic. After this release though she seems to be back in force as evidenced by the performances she put on at the Amplify festival this fall.  Otomo, on the other hand, seems lost in work, playing more music then ever but so much of it seeming disjointed with odd collaborations, seemingly incoherent choices (such as all the work in pseudo-jazz forms) and a genuine lack of restraint. His interests seems to have moved on from quiet, sensitive explorations and yet he seems to still be able to pull them off when the need arises.

Filament, especially in recent years, seemed to be about fluctuations in stasis. As evidenced in the fantastic box set they released in 2004 they had pared their sound down to absolute essentials, fluttery whispers from Otomo’s turntables,  long tones from Sachiko with perturbations coming in the form of simple amendations to these basic units. Adding additional players to this spartan affair is always fraught with risk and I’d say there are few collaborators that would work with this as opposed to transform it into something else. Their collaboration with Günter Müller for instance, while a fantastic trio, wasn’t really Filament anymore. Given how chaotic a lot of Hong and Choi’s work seemed at the time this was certainly something that one would expect could go in the direction of becoming something else.  However this collaboration turned out to be absolutely amazing, producing music that one evokes much of Filament and yet goes quite beyond the finite limits that that project seems to have set for itself.

The disc is made up of three pieces, the first in three parts (1/1, 1/2, 1/3) the second a short interstitial track (2),  the third in two parts (3/1, 3/2). The trademarked stasis of Filament is strong in the first piece, with Otomo layering whispers of sound from the turntable, perhaps just the lead-in track of a record, or the needle brushing over a soft surface. Sachiko lays back for quite some time in this piece and then carefully places soft, short twitters from her sine wave generators.  But along with this are short bursts of tattered feedback, never loud but a low stutter rising out of this soft bed.  This along with electronic hums, mechanical rattles, short rumbles and hisses of static, come in and say for only the shortest of visits. This creates a fascinating, multi-layered effect, one that obscures any sort of mental assemblage – it doesn’t lend itself to easy systems of structure. There are no major dynamic shifts, though there are louder and softer bits, it just seems to become such.  There isn’t a rapid fire run through of numerous sounds and techniques, but likewise the sounds aren’t overused and never become predictable. No this music is slippery, complex and yet constructed of the barest minimum of parts. The middle track seems to work with the fewest parts, left to stew for a bit but over its short six minute length there does seem to be a building toward something that never arrives leaving us again with a fragmented vacuum.  The final piece seems to be led a bit more by the Koreans; it is they who setup a grinding mechanical bed that the other sounds work in. Here Sachiko leaves a single tone running for long periods of times, merely backing it off and changing it to different frequencies at various times.  Even with the greater sound density of the Koreans mechanical apparatus they space it out, bringing these sounds and waiting to switch them to another. The final moments of this track is some of the most post-industrial sounding and works as an endcap to both the piece and the disc. Not a climax in any sort of traditional way but an ending, closure.

This collaboration was certainly never a certainty and I have to say the results probably exceeded my expectations. This was one I’d heard about right when it was performed and with my love of Filament and my increasing interest in the Korean scene I was highly anticipating it’s release. But I had no idea which direction it would go and I couldn’t be more pleased with the results.  It is fitting I think that the disc is not Filament + Hong Chulki and Choi Joonyong but that it is an equal collaboration between Sachiko M, Choi Joonyong Otomo Yoshihide and Hong Chulki. As for the title, well your guess is as good as mine.

References
1) Choi Joonyong interview at Foxy Digitalis
2) Hong Chulki page at Balloon & Needle
3) Choi Joonyong page at Balloon & Needle
4) Review by Joe Foster of the 2006 concerts.

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.

lightSeptember 20th
Erstwhile Records presents
AMPLIFY 2008: light day 2

Kid Ailack Art Hall, Meidaimae, Tokyo, Japan

Once again I arrived to Meidaimae via the Keio line from Shinjuko. Though I pointed out earlier that coming from Kichijoji is more direct I always was in the Shinjuko area and so for all four days of shows at Kid Ailack Hall I would take the train from there.  I of course returned via Kichijoji inscribing a great circle which I always prefer anyway.  Today I again arrived a bit early and on this day I decided to swing by the PSF Records shop.  It was about two blocks away from the venue, up a little side street. Its on the second floor of what just looks like an apartment block and you had to ring up to the room to be let in the gate.  Another patron arrived just as I was figuring out the intercom and he helpfully handled that for me.  After taking the elevator up to the second floor you find a tiny rectangular room stacked with boxes in the entrance. It gets no more spacious as you enter the room, with the walls lined with CDs, books and DVDs and as you got closer to the window bins of records.  Crammed into one edge was a counter, also stacked with boxes, and  with the proprietor just behind it along with a stereo which was blasting out some free jazz while I was there.  There were two guys talking to him and a fellow gaijin browsing the records in the back. You had to wait for a person to leave to get into these narrow aisles.  I did a pretty thorough survey but I wasn’t really planning to buy anything unless something absolutely amazing revealed itself to me. Not too much in the area of improv I’m into but there were some nice selections in the classical music section, a couple of Cage discs that probably aren’t that easy to find anymore.  Anyway after worming my way around the whole store I left without purchase.

psf
psychedelic speed freaks

The second night of Amplify 2008 was three solos. All of these were incredibly interesting to me and were highly anticipated.  I’ve seen Keith Rowe solo on several occasions and they have been amongst my favorite shows, so I expected another great set.  Sachiko M I’ve only seen in duo with Ami and the trio with English up to this point and her solos are of course legendary. With her palette restricted to contact mics this was sure to be a unique set that could honestly go anywhere.  Mitsuhiro Yoshimura sprung to global awareness just last year, seemingly out of nowhere, with two interesting and impressive discs and all reports were that his feedback technique was far more impressive live.  All of this combined with being one of the only people in this fest I’d never seen live made his solo one of my most anticipated of the fest.

I made my way to the venue finding myself the first person there with the proprietor setting up the tables and signs out front.  Inside Yoshimura was sound checking and I leaned against the wall and enjoyed a free set of distant pure tones and mild traffic noise. Very nice.  Not too long after that the sound check ended, things were setup and I was able to coral a seat. Again Jon, Yuko, Mark and myself were rocking the front row with Joe just behind and Keith took a seat in the back. The room again filled up to capacity (it sold out every night, with usually a couple people arriving a little late and sitting on the floor by the door or up front).  It was pretty warm and with all the people there a bit oppressive, especially combined with those chairs.  Yoshimura made his way front and center then the lights went out with only a very dim flood light on him.

yoshimura's setup
Yoshimura’s setup

Mitsuhiro Yoshimura
Yoshimura utilized a stereo microphone on a stand in front of him and two sets of headphones, one on the floor at his feet the other clasped in his hands.  Immediately his signature high thin tone of pure feedback was introduced.  This sound was pretty all enveloping, resonating in the inner ear in a slightly disorienting manner. He let this pure tone play for a bit and then using the headphones in his hand began manipulating the second tone.  These two tones were for all intents and purposes identical and by subtly changing the dynamics of one of them he was able to create a fairly wide range of sounds. His basic technique is to hold the headphones with the earpieces pressed together and by increasing the distance of the gap between the two earpieces he could dramatically influence the character of the feedback.  This could range from the thin pure tone, to these scittery hollow electrical sounds, to more aggressive ripping sounds and if he gave them free reign (which he never did) would probably fall into that characteristic oscillating pattern modulated by the room dynamics.

Through careful manipulations he could slightly change the tone thus creating beating patterns between the two source tones and he worked with this for a while, an effect that created a buzzing ringing sound in ones inner ear. As the set developed he’d drop in a quick tear of feedback, louder though never aggressively loud. Dual tones, beating tones and this rising sequences of feedback were the elements that he constructed a tight piece of about a half an hour in length.  In the closeness and warmth of the room it could be found oppressive but I in general found it pretty fascinating, especially when you factored in the extraneous sounds. The aforementioned chairs were nearly an equal participant in the latter half of this set, first with the occasional squeak and shuffle, latter with a cascade of these sounds at times overwhelming Yoshumura’s tones. One of my favorite moments was when a group of teenagers (most likely as I’d seen multiple packs of them earlier) stopped in front  of the venue and had a short conversation (driven by the sounds from within perhaps) with much laughter. It combined with Yoshimura’s tones was really magical I thought. The distant traffic and at least one car going by out front also layered in nicely.  I really enjoyed this set and was really excited at how Yoshumura was mixing it up from the pure single tone that he used on his recordings to date.


mics-n-mixer

Sachiko M
With only three sets every night (an amount I prefer personally) there was always a nice break between sets and the performers were able to stretch out as much as they wanted. Yoshimura’s set hadn’t been too long (though long enough in my opinion) and it was somewhat anticipated that Sachiko’s wouldn’t be too long either.  While she has used contact mics in concert with her sine waves, this apparently was the first time she was using them on their own. Or at all in the past few years it was revealed.  She had a table with a small mixer and four or five contact mics connected to it.  The set began awkwardly with apparently no sound coming from her mixing. Switches were flipped, chords jiggled and eventually whatever was off was made to be on. Immediately the sounds revealed by the contact mics filled the room. Anyone who has worked with contact mics is famalier with the sounds she was getting:  amplified scrapes, metallic grinding, hollow ringing, buzzes, amplified crinkles and so on.  She seemed to mostly just let them ride, blasting out big sounds as she’d untangle the cords and drop or pick them up.  In general I found this set totally unstructured, pretty much had a feel of working out of things on the fly.  She’d fiddle around with the mics ’til something seemed to work and then develop that for a bit. The best of these were putting them in her clothes and carefully moving about, rubbing them on the table and the very best in my opinion was at the end where she enclosed a mic in each hand and gently massaged it.  The transitions between these events were always terrible, not so much transitions as dramatic shifts with big clanks, thuds and ringing sounds as she’d reposition them and untangle wires.

There was no sense of deep structure, dramatic arc or anything of the sort. Just an exploratory working with the limits and possibilities of these tools. A lot of the sounds were great, I for one have spent many an hour with contact mics and love their metallic grinding range, but they were just thrown out there with no attempt to create music. For me this was the most disappointing of the sets as there is no one I respect more for her incredible touch, sensitivity and ability to shape the simplist of sounds into a structure piece of music.  It was incredibly brave to explore these tools in front of an audience and I highly respect her for that. However I think that there is no reason she couldn’t have worked out in advance how she would use these tools to actually create coherent music. It has been pointed out to me that if you were listening to this on a recording the sense of figuring things out on the fly would not be nearly so obvious.  This is probably true, but I personally think that one would still find this lacking in deep structure that the absence of intentionality would come through on repeated listens.

Keith Rowe
Keith Rowe solo

Keith Rowe
Keith was playing four of the nine sets of this festival and the question of how he’d mix it up was always in the air. The spiky event based duo with Unami yesterday was one direction, would we see the opposite for tonight? This being the fourth solo set of Keith’s that I’ve seen I’m fairly familiar with a lot of the structures and techniques that he uses. The way that this set developed turned out to be almost entirely novel, a real surprise to me and an incredibly exciting event.  He structured the set with four long clips of classical music from his iPod, all European composers from the baroque era. He would let this run for some time and then begin playing along with them.  ‘With’ is the important concept here: there was no destruction of the music, ironic reference or banal commentary.  He was literally playing with the music, adding his own sound world to the gorgeous music of the past. The first of these pieces was the adagio from the Concerto for Oboe in d-minor, by Alessandro Marcello which he let play for a good piece before carefully adding in some subtle Brillo pad work on the strings above the pickups.  When this was allowed to fade away the elements used were harder – metallic objects on the strings, the butter knife slapped into the pickup and so forth. Perhaps this was meant as a deliberate contrast but however he intended it, it was effective.  He had told me earlier that he was revisiting a lot of his older techniques that he’d retired: the Brillo pad, the bow, springs and so on and these certainly came into play a lot (except for the bow, he didn’t use it all weekend that I noticed).  The springs made a lot of play in this set, especially after the second of the classical pieces which unlike the first piece was a vocal piece, byJean-Joseph Cassanea de Mondonville.  Further removed from the instrumentality of both Keith’s performance and of the first piece this one was of incredible beauty. Again he didn’t corrupt this beauty but worked with it, enhanced it eve.  He did toward the end bring in the radio, which was playing this syrupy smooth jazz, before fading out the iPod. The jazz wasn’t treated as reverently and static, feedback and various attacks on the strings cut through it’s banality.

The set continued on in this way with two more vocal pieces being utilized,Jean-Philippe Rameau’s Castor and Pollux and near the end the lament from Henry Purcell‘s  Dido and Aeneas.  This last piece was particularly effective, again its great beauty standing in a certain contrast to the music and the surroundings of this weekend but also in it’s obvious melancholy and despair.  While again the music was treated with utmost respect as the notes were fading away Keith’s attacks on the guitar became increasing violent and the volume was on the rise. Static and distortion, files on the strings, the fan adding its helicopter menace as the whole built to a crescendo and then ended.  An amazingly powerful piece, once again somehow transcending the previous amazing solo sets I’ve witnessed from Mr. Rowe.  While his collab with Unami was probably my favorite piece of music from the weekend this I think one could argue was the most powerful, the most important and well executed.  He is working with ideas here that I think are of a greater depth then most people in the field and this piece in particular was very carefully thought out in its intentions. He freely spoke to those who asked about what he was trying to do, what the purpose of the classical music was.  I don’t think I can really give his thoughts justice here but to give a bit of an idea it was the concepts of beauty and what it means in this music.  He said also that he deliberately used these four European composers as that was his heritage and that this was the lineage he was part of.  Working with these concepts, trying to resolve them in music is what gives his performance so much depth and power and I’m constantly reminded of this every time I see him perform.

Another great night of music, with for me personally getting a chance to see a new performer, a performer trying new things and what I would say is among the greatest solo performances I have ever seen.  A fantastic night filled with new experiences and interesting music.  Tokyo is a long way to travel for concerts but this festival is proving to be well worth the trip.

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.