Composer Tashi Wada has performed for years with his father Yoshi Wada—artist, composer, and early member of the Fluxus movement. However, they have rarely appeared together in studio settings. Nue, the fourteenth entry in RVNG Intl.’s intergenerational FRKWYS series, finally brings Tashi and Yoshi, along with an eclectic group of close friends and extended family, together on tape. Nue draws on aspects of Tashi’s background for his widest vision to date—among them the minimalist bagpipe music of Yoshi, who co-composed three of the tracks, the psychoacoustic and perceptual explorations of his mentor, composer James Tenney, and reimagined forms of ancient and devotional music. The album, however, is not a tribute to the past or a recapitulation of familiar sounds. Instead, Nue is an intertwining of people and ideas as a means of growing, of looking inward to move outward, and of looking back to move forward.
To achieve this growth, Tashi assembled a core group of fellow travelers, including Yoshi, composer Julia Holter, producer Cole MGN, and percussionist Corey Fogel, to give life to this multifaceted suite. As an experience, Nue subtly navigates the interactions, intimacy and spaciousness of this group.
The album’s title itself is a nod to Tashi’s abiding interest in duality and the unknown: nue is a mythological Japanese chimera with the face of a monkey, the legs of a tiger, and a snake for a tail, a composite form, at once disturbing and otherworldly. But, as the composer points out, nue is also French for naked—stripped of complexity, bare and exposed, but also raw and essential. From the doubling of tones—and the world of harmonic nuances such an action produces—to the rich interplay between individual musicians, all baring their own personalities and experiences through shared performance, Tashi’s compositions allow space for these elements to join and grow. The multipartite creature that is an ensemble melds in the simplicity and purity of the music itself.
As explained by Tashi, each part was written with an individual in mind, not simply an instrument. And each individual performer makes their mark, from Holter’s vocal performances on the cresting, oceanic “Mutable Signs” and “Ondine” with guest vocalists Simone Forti, Jessika Kenney and Laura Steenberge, to Fogel’s resonant, precise percussion on “Bottom of the Sky.” Producer Cole MGN, who has worked extensively with artists like Beck and Ariel Pink, helped to create a world of sound with minimal yet multi-dimensional materials. Like many of its influences, Nue uses deceivingly simple means to create complex, coherent worlds and narratives. Tashi notes the influence of legendary Brazilian writer Clarice Lispector, whose work looked inward, investigating memory and emotion and dream, to understand the often overwhelming world outside the self. Like Lispector’s classic novel Near to the Wild Heart, Nue cleaves these archetypal dualities—world/self, old/new, complex/simple—to create a work that allows them to coalesce into something singular.
As Tashi states in his liner notes: “My desire was to create something both old and new sounding—ancient and futuristic—and ultimately something of its own world and other. Nue is a vision, an endless night of dreams, and a personal history of sorts, full of joys and demons.”
Tashi Wada with Yoshi Wada and Friends’ Nue will be released on September 28, 2018 on LP, CD, and digital formats. Accompanying visuals by Jana Papenbroock will be shared variously before the album release date, and a new touring group featuring members of the ensemble will converge for a special performance at National Sawdust on October 2.