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Sachiko M, Toshimaru Nakamura, Otomo Yoshihide

Good Morning / Good Night (2CD)

Label: Erstwhile Records

Format: double CD

Genre: Experimental

Out of stock

Well, 'Holy Good Night!' seems an appropriate reaction when faced with a substantial double-disc offering from the 'holy triumvirate' of Japanese reduced improvisation and minimal electronics, ie Otomo Yoshihide, Sachiko Matsubara and Toshimaru Nakamura. In August 2003, they quietly entered a studio in Tokyo and laid down the basis for this music in only two days. The following month saw a final mixdown issue from their hands. Amazingly, the roof did not fall in on the musical world as a result. Maybe it should have done.

The challenge for the trio seems to have been to set themselves quite extreme limitations: the least number of sounds, or variations thereon, being permissible at any one time. I imagine some sort of musical framework where the only allowable language comprised gentle purrs, vague hummings, high-pitched whines, grumbling, stutters of feedback, and sparkle-crackling. Every manifestation had to be completely abstract, off-white, and electronic; all elements bonding together within a chamber that was otherwise silent. Talk about your severe life-style...even hermetic monks lead a more exciting life than that! At least they only had to undergo this enforced restriction for 2 days...

Within this framework, our plucky threesome - now already starting to appear more like ghosts or shadows cast on white walls of the studio, than substantial human bodies - begin to form their random shapes, their vague patterns, their semi-regular configurations, following the improvisational and intuitive charts they carry around in their heads. Sounds are turned on, and cut off again; the stopping and starting method generates overlapping passages; everything placed there with a reason and with a purpose. It seems to be deliberately arranged so as to call attention to the very language they're using; in much conventional music, you rarely notice the basic 'grammar'. These are blank statements filled with meaning. Considerable discipline and restraint has been brought to bear to maintain this rigid stance so consistently. Imagine a drama school where actors are taught to express emotions and ideas, not through body language and posture, but through keeping very still for long periods of time. Tough going.

As to where this leaves us: this could be two discs of near-complete nothingness, or a truly momentous statement of severely-reduced minimalism. But the surprising thing is how good it is to listen to, once one learns how to accept the work on its own terms. I suppose a high degree of concentration is demanded of the listener, and you have to forget your preconceptions about 'music' and 'entertainment', But hey, I know all you Sound Projector soldiers by now, and you can stick this one out easily. In a world where it seems every other improviser is currently opting for the 'quiet mode', this CD has already set a new gold standard in excellence for restricted and reduced music. Along with records like Weather Sky, It will be seen as a major benchmark in this area.

Cat. number: erstwhile 042-2
Year: 2005