Tip! *315 copies limited edition* The latest release on An’archives, Suikyō, documents a first-time meeting between three Japanese improvisers: Takashi Masubuchi on guitar and harmonica; Ayami Suzuki on voice and electronics; and Tomo on hurdy-gurdy. Recorded at Permian on the 29th of January, 2023, it’s a stunning, forty-minute long improvisation of rare artistic sympathy. Notably, it was the first time the trio had performed together, though Masubuchi and Suzuki have prior form as a duo; on the evening itself, the trio performance was preceded by solo sets from Suzuki and Tomo, which served as a kind of introduction, of sorts, to the broader aesthetic visions of two of the musicians on Suikyō.
Masubuchi, Suzuki and Tomo make for a fascinating trio, not only due to the shared musical sympathy that’s clear from their performance, but also due to their histories, and the way these dovetail on the music you hear on Suikyō. Masubuchi has recorded a number of stunning solo albums for guitar and has also improvised with a number of musicians: you can hear his responsiveness and thoughtful playing on albums alongside Suzuki, Taku Sugimoto, Straytone, Shizuo Uchida, Takahiro Kawaguchi, and more. Suzuki’s work for voice has been documented on several solo cassette releases, and in consort with Tetuzi Akiyama, Rob Noyes, Leo Okagawa, Aidan Baker and Tobias Humble. And Tomo’s music can be heard on a small clutch of solo CDs, as a member of Tetragrammaton and Archeus, and in collaboration with Junzo Suzuki. The way their instrumental voices meld together on Suikyō, though, is evidence of a capacity both to draw from these histories, and to take these collective knowledges to new places. And sometimes, unexpectedly old places: Masubuchi notes that his guitar on this set took him back to the rock and blues he used to play, perhaps in earlier groups like Pelktopia, which he suggests contributes to “the psychedelic mood” of Suikyō. Tomo’s hurdy gurdy matches this by pulling drones out of the air or allowing melodies to slowly morph and envelop the listener – their development, at times, reminds me of troubadour music from Occitanie.
Suzuki’s presence is equally compelling and curious. Her voice is an eternally flexible instrument, and whether it sits unadorned within the soundworld magic’d into space by Masubuchi and Tomo, or slips between the cracks thanks to subtle use of electronic effects, it has a quality about it that is both otherworldly – at times, the voice soars and pirouettes – and thoroughly, deeply grounded, of this earth, a most human and intimate encounter. There is a lovely consort between Suzuki and Tomo, the voice and hurdy-gurdy shadowing each other: as Tomo notes, “the hurdy gurdy has been an instrument played to accompany singing since the Middle Ages.” For Suzuki, the performance was “psychedelic and hedonistic in a good way,” but it wasn’t simply given in to that experience: “we were at the same time looking at it from an objective point of view.”
That feels like the right way to approach Suikyō: as a performance that both sets the mind and ears spinning, but with a careful, thoughtful, and considerate objectivity to its moment-by-moment development. It’s also incredibly gorgeous. As a first encounter, it’s surprising in both its comfort and its challenge: and as Masubuchi says, the playing together feels just the way it had to be: “instinctive, unintentional, and inevitable.”