*LP ltd to 285, silkscreened jacket with obi (red or black) inserts and postcard* Albedo Gravitas is an extension of Albedo Fantastica (released on An’archives in 2018), the duo of Keiko Higuchi and Sachiko (Kousokuya, Overhang Party, Vava Kitora). Both of them are well known names to those who are evolving in the Japanese underground waters since each has been involved in many projects and each has a consisting discography on labels as Musik Atlach, Improvising Beings, Utech. Their respective backgrounds are maybe a little bit different but they share a common interest in different genres from jazz and rock to free improvisation and have collaborated with a cast of various musicians in the likes of Cris X, Fukuoka Rinji, Kawaguchi Masami, Shin-Ichiro Kanda… For Albedo Gravitas, Shizuo Uchida joins on bass. A peripatetic member of the Japanese underground, having played with groups such as Nord, Onna-Kodomo, Hasegawa-Shizuo, Kito Mizukumi Rouber and Keiji Haino’s Nijiumu, he most recently turned up on An’archives as one half of UH, alongside sax player Takayuki Hashimoto (of KMR and .es).
While this is Albedo Gravitas’s first album, they play together with intelligence and sensitivity, but also with a strong capacity for the unexpected; there are many moments here where you’re wrongfooted, caught askance by the way the music comes together, and comes apart. Higuchi’s and Sachiko’s instrumental armory is multiple : piano, drums, melodica, electronics. Maybe their most remarkable presence, though, comes through voice – the glottal contortions, heart-rending sighs and moans, and chopped’n’screwed real-time vox improvs that soar across the album’s unpredictable musical terrain. Uchida works here with temporal disruption, there with heavyweight bass punctuation; drums plot out the most welcome rudimentary anti-rhythms, as electronics and melodica shoot arcs of white light through the air, lending an avant-chamber charm to the music here.
Most startling are the dynamics of the two side-long pieces, and the way the group use silence and stilted landscapes to suggest all kinds of routes previously unnavigated. In its capacity for disorientation, it feels indeed like a surprising kind of psychedelia, one far from generic constraint, and much closer to the sidereal suspension that that most overused of terms should rend through your head.