Kazuki TOMOKAWA: “Erise no me“ ****

tomokawa-erise2

Recorded 2001

 

Even before the unprepared listener has a chance to delve into the symbolism of Tomokawa’s lyrics, s/he is bound to be elegantly nudged off balance by the singer’s oxymoronic style.  Zestful melancholia, brusque intimacy and abrasive pastoralism bite softly from his violent ballads.  And yes, he makes all this possible. 

 

Over the years, Tomokawa maintained the unique character of his art while transforming and adapting his musical persona.  He managed to steer away from the mainstream yet seems to be aware of the changes that must have – and did – affect his audience.  From an underground singer songwriter of early 1970s, Tomokawa re-emerged as a progressive acid folk bard of the late 1970s, and acoustic poet of the 1980 and an avant-folk cabaret star of the 1990s.  Since the beginning of this century, he further expanded his activity into film making and bolder promotion of his charmingly emotional, primitivist paintings. 

 

Operating predominantly in the acoustic realm since the mid-1980s, Tomokawa has been fortunate enough to attract heavyweights of Japan’s improvised, jazz and avant-folk scenes.  Bassist Motoharu Yoshizawa appeared on several of his recordings in the 1990s.  Keiji Haino, Chihiro S of Lacrymosa, Toshiaki Ishizuka of Cinorama and Vajra, and Takero Sekijima of Compostela have all recorded with Tomokawa.  He replaced the earlier trio of acoustic guitar, bass and percussion with a particularly rewarding guitar-piano-percussion format, relying heavily on Masato Nagahata, one of his most loyal collaborators.

 

Tomokawa has been a keen interpreter of works penned in the 1920s by symbolist and dada poet Chuya Nakahara.  Considered the Rimbaud of Japanese literature, Nakahara is highly regarded for the musical quality he apportioned to the rhythmic syllabism of Japanese language.  Tomokawa often appears to have captured Nakahara’s spirit in his own hyperbolic 5- and 7-syllable liners. 

 

Seldom does Tomokawa seem to be perfectly satisfied with his records.  Oftentimes, he returns repeatedly to some of his flagship themes, usually with satisfying results. 

 

Swimming with ease between the general indifference and devoted cult following, he has crafted for himself a lasting niche. 

 

 

tomokawaJean Genet ni kike

A chromite tryad welcomes us to the spangling fretwork of high pitched mandolin (Masato Nagahata), acoustic guitar (Tomokawa) and drums (Toshiaki Ishizuka).  Cracking melodic lozenges into airborne confetti, the trio imposes its lustrous effervescence evoking the most irradiant Stormy Six circa “Cliché”.  Nagahata’s brisé style rushes hasty variations bordering on mini-fantasias.  Not unlike Jean-Paul Sartre, Tomokawa refers to Jean Genet as a ‘saint’.  But whereas Sartre focused openly on his character’s homosexuality, taste for betrayal and quest for evil, Tomokawa remains oblique and discrete in the banal enumeration of daily chores and equally banal midnight phantoms.  This emphasis on extreme contrast is reflected in the parsimony of acoustic tools.  The snare runs may evoke a 1940s march, but they waddle in the resplendence of pristine Mediterranean, not the urban grime of George Grosz or Otto Dix. 

 

Erise no me

Nagahata’s accordion swells with robust sustain, stepping down seamlessly along a gracious diminuendo.  Tomokawa adopts here his trademark gi’en (chanted recitation) style, remaining in full dynamic control.  Taroh Kanai joins the band on his lithe, alluvial nylon string guitar.  His instrument makes some tight-lipped commentaries on Tomokawa’s verse.  The singer’s command of self-style vowel contraction may require a closer study of the attached lyric sheet, but Tomokawa’s diction allows him to cram much more into each line than any metrical form would normally accommodate.  The lyrics betray the failed attempt to freeze a memorable moment “Ichibu shiju mite ita nowa erise no me” – forever contemplated eyes of Erise… 

 

Suichû megane
This music has been composed to a deeply sensorial poem by Masato Katoo.  Tomokawa draws vivid images of a beach and breaking surf.  Kanai’s guitar exudes fireplace warmth and teams up with Nagahata’s searing mandolin.  The narration exploits sudden juxtapositions of emotionally conflictive imagery.

 

Bô suru hi
There are many modes fitting for a waltz – the pathos of grande valse, macabresque abandon, Groundhog-day type circularity.  Tomokawa opts for a comedian’s waltz and chokes with his clandestine shriek at the end of each stanza.  His self-gagged style is dutifully accompanied by accordion, woodblocks and acoustic guitar.  In its circumambulation, the band turns up the volume, but remains disciplined under the rattle of alpine-sounding spoons.  The composition of the poem betrays reliance on free association. 

 

Kagetsuen
Do fish sleep in the sea?” – asks Tomokawa, before sending us on a gallop jaunt with piano arpeggios and guitar chords.  Engineer Takeshi Yoshida turned here the instrumental interludes into veritable orchestral cocktails of free electric guitar and abstract, taut bongos, with results reminiscent of the fibrous seams laid down by Francis Gorgé (Birgé-Gorgé-Shiroc) and Lee Underwood (Tim Buckley).  The entire band swells again when the refrain comes back, with mandolin bisbigliandos, free piano and chromatic drums galore.  The intensity of these improvised instrumentals mimics Tomokawa-the-singer’s dynamic extremes.  His polar approach has long deleted the inelastic and conformist dynamic middle. 

 

Fuyu no chômonkyo
Chuya Nakahara’s poem is introduced by a very ‘De Falla’-inspired Spanish guitar.  The lattice of siliceous notes is sunny, cayenne, supple.  “Samui samui hi nari ki” – a cold, very cold day is coming.  Tomokawa’s basic chords on regular guitar are no match for the dolce plucking of Kanai’s nylon strings. 

 

Shishamo
Tomokawa’s modified haikus retain 7-syllable and 5-syllable verses, but squish them into frequently overboiling emotionalism which is at the antipodes of the detached, spiritual suggestiveness of the genre.  This text, with its references to Jim Morrison, is a rather average folk rock trade with two guitars and an accordion. 

 

Kôkyôshujiyûminpoto

This tongue-in-cheek political statement could appeal to young Japanese, long disaffected by the purely notional character of the country’s democracy.  Tomokawa “proposes” foundation of a new party for the rich and poor alike – named humorously Public Chief Liberty Democratic Guarantee Party, or something to this effect.

 

Ranke kokkara mai
The preceding two tracks have disturbed the flow of this collection, but the three closing compositions are the record’s saving grace.  On “Ranke…”, Keiji Haino incinerates cobwebs of mystery, single-handedly plunging Tomokawa’s combo into a much roomier, yet invariably claustrophobic space.  The singer’s acoustic guitar merely functions here as a rump percussion, while Haino’s liquid, annealing style is redolent of his most anguished of spells (e.g. “Mazu wa iro wo nakusoo”).  Someone plays harmonica as Tomokawa pukes his increasingly dramatic lines against Haino’s soaring lines of karmic beauty.  A descend from these heights leads down an open, inanimate, deserted slope – with skeletal acoustic guitar as our only companion. 

 

Ikyo no tori
Only a handful of singer-songwriters managed to fuse their percussive piano style with a lasting sense of personal drama – Brel, Grechuta, Alvaro come to mind.  Tomokawa’s melodramatic exposé doubles the tension with the use of a march-like drum, which releases the acoustic keyboard into a concerto scale resonance.  Fluent slide touch from Kanai on his Spanish guitar again enriches this tight metric with a measure of improvised individualism.  This interplay of Nagahata’s grand dramatism on the piano with the cozy guitar whispers is mediated by the excellent stick work on slash cymbal work by Ishizuka.  “At the bifurcation of the skies (…), the vividness lasts forever”. 

 

Chichi o kau

The finale takes us into a supermundane territory.  On this track, Haino’s guitar work moves closer to his Fushitsusha nights – awash with drilling thrusts and throttles.  Free, lateral drumming and spasmodic recitation of an agonizingly patrilineal text by Yutaka Kikuchi transform this piece into a stormy tide of seething avant-rock.  In this mostly atonal environment, Tomokawa privileges chaos, allowing Ishizuka to deploy his panoply of tools in an aperiodic, vector-free fashion.  Tomokawa strangles the tortured strings of his acoustic guitar with abandon worthy of Kan Mikami.  Against the background of Haino’s brutal guitar malice, Tomokawa’s screams gravitate – unusually for him – towards the lower register.  Ishizuka’s colorful use of cymbals avoids any interaction with the waves of guitar feedback.  Haino ends this epic chapter with an impromptu staccato. 

 

 

***

 

 

Kazuki TOMOKAWA: “Yatto ichimaime” (1975)

Kazuki TOMOKAWA: “Nikusei” (1976)

Kazuki TOMOKAWA: “Ore no uchi de nariymanai uta, Nakamura Chuya sakuhinshû” (1978)

Kazuki TOMOKAWA: “Inu – Akita Concert Live” (1978)

Kazuki TOMOKAWA: “Senbazuru wo kuchi ni kuwaeta hibi“ (1979)

Kazuki TOMOKAWA: “Sakura no kuni no chiru naka wo” (1980)

Kazuki TOMOKAWA: “Umi shizuka, koe wa yami” (1981)

Kazuki TOMOKAWA: “Muzan no bi” (1985)

Kazuki TOMOKAWA: “Hanabana no kashitsu” (1992)

Kazuki TOMOKAWA: “Live Manda-La Special” (1993)

Kazuki TOMOKAWA: “Maboroshi to asobu” (1994)

Kazuki TOMOKAWA: “Hitori bon-odori” (1995)

Kazuki TOMOKAWA & Kan MIKAMI: “Go-en. Live In Nihon Seinenkan“ (1995)

Kazuki TOMOKAWA: “Shibuya Apia Document” (1993-95)

Kazuki TOMOKAWA: “Zeiniku No Asa” (1996)

Kazuki TOMOKAWA: “Yume Wa Hibi Genki Ni Shinde Yuku” (1998)

Kazuki TOMOKAWA: “Sora no Sakana” (1999)

Kazuki TOMOKAWA: “Akai Polyan” (2000)

Kazuki TOMOKAWA: “Erise no me” (2001)

Kazuki TOMOKAWA: “Kenshin no Ichigeki” (2002)

Kazuki TOMOKAWA: “Itsuka toku mite ta” (2004)

Kazuki TOMOKAWA: “Satoru” (2005)

Kazuki TOMOKAWA: “Live 2005 Osaka Banana Hall” (2005)

Kazuki TOMOKAWA: “Aoi mizu, akai mizu” (2007)

 

There are also several compilations, and collections of previously published, but rearranged works.  Tomokawa’s earliest singles (solo and with Downtown Boogiewoogie Band) can be found Toshiba sampler “Neko ga nemutte iru“ (1974).  He also appears on compilation “International Sad Hits Volume 1”.

 

For those who wish to step into his fascinating world, I particularly recommend the CDs recorded in the 1990s, even though the artistic breakthrough probably came with “Muzan no bi”, whose title song could be one of Tomokawa’s best compositions ever. 

 

Since the beginning of this century, Tomokawa has benefitted from increased name recognition and most of his recent output consists of re-recorded earlier material and live documents.  He also plunged into collaboration with filmmakers (Koji Wakamatsu, Takashi Miike and Rokuro Mochizuki), inevitably leading to slowdown in his activity as a composer of new material.

Published in: on November 6, 2008 at 10:51 pm  Comments (3)  
Tags: , ,

DATE COURSE PENTAGON ROYAL GARDEN: “Report from Iron Mountain” ******

 

Recorded 2001

 

Date Course Pentagon Royal Garden were a revelation of the first half of this decade.  Born after the break-up of deservedly regretted Tipographica, DCPRG were a bold idea of part-time Ground Zero reed player Naruyoshi Kikuchi.  For the early sessions he brought along the legend of Yoshihide Otomo, who officiated on the first two CDs.  But DCPRG were much more than another Otomo-related project.  Far from the polymetric intricacies of Tipographica, the large-scale orchestration sought inspiration in electric Miles period of early 1970s, heavy funk music and South American fusion.  If that concoction could sound almost conventional 30 years on, it was anything but.  The innovative use of samples, the enterprising gravity of the swashbuckling rhythm section and efflorescent production set DCPRG apart from other bands keen to capitalize on the unexpected funk revival. 

 

In the later productions, Otomo was absent and DCPRG expanded its horn section, entering a futuristic jazz-funk territory for adventurous ears.  It is hoped that the band will return to studio at some point.

 

 

Catch 22

There is something about the greatest of all records.  This “something” is how they begin.  The eponymous “Faust”, the third Motor Totemist Guild, Area’s “Arbeit macht frei”, Lussier-Lepage “Chants et danses du monde inanime”, Volapük’s “Where Is Tamashii?” are among them…  The unforgettable shock of our confrontation with the sudden agglomeration of ideas compressed into several short sequences…  “Report from the Iron Mountain” rings up in this shortlist.  The spine-chilling “I’m Something Special” thrown into our earlobes by a clueless princess so poorly adapted to life in the real world provides for a startling auditory jolt from which no English-hearing listener will recover throughout this engaging collection.  But the band does recover: an electric piano and a dense percussive equivalent of a musical coral reef will carry us through a lazy, unquenchable funk.  Listeners compare this percussive overgrowth to electric-era Miles Davis and especially his more oriental moments.  There no little doubt that Masaki Yoshimi’s cavalier tabla is the main culprit here.  The groovy figure on the leading electric piano (most probably the leader Naruyoshi Kikuchi) operates at a contrived delay to the reigning rhythmic compressor: tabla, sizzling electronics, bass, drums.  The sampled, clueless voice of a spoiled American female recurs with abandon.  In response, a wild, dingy alto sax lashes out obsessively.  The electric guitar interferes with long sustain, but the futuristic machine advances on a perfectionist tripod of drums, electric bass and the ubiquitous tabla.  Yoshihide Otomo’s solo guitar is slightly gritty, located somewhere in the 1970s transpacific tradition, almost independent of the obtrusive rhythmic, orogenic compressor.  After 6 minutes of this delectable progression, an explosion of free noise alerts us to a different serving from the guitar/organ duo (Kohki Takai/Masayuki Tsuboguchi).  The monstrous rhythm section rushes forward, with opportunistic decoys calling on.  But the machine can be easily immobilized: short drum solos interfere, immersed in sudden, disorienting silence.  After another free noise avalanche, it’s one of those classic guitar moments.  “Tell me when it’s over” declaims the clueless lady.  It is over, though.

 

Play Mate at Hanoi

What a relief.  After this hard-driven deal, this next track welcomes us with a Latin rhythm clanked up on woodblocks.  The synthesizer improvises on top, heavily dependent on pedal-generated bass lines.  Tinny cowbells add accents off the main beat and the radiant organ doubles, but not quite harmonically.  Only when twangy guitar à la Reggie Lucas pays a visit, does the entire rhythm section fall into a “samba falsa” groove.  Soprano sax is too shrill to compare it to David Liebman’s, but its electronic amplification and slight echo are certainly redolent of the mid-1970s drug-enhanced Davis combo.  Here, the saxophone is very agile and blends perfectly while retaining inductive projection.  When we suddenly jump into a funky line – almost Isaac Hayes’s “Shaft” – Kenta Tsugami’s soprano saxophone goes cyber-jazzy.  Finally a 15-note theme appears on reeds and synthesizer.  The wayward soprano departs from the groupthink as soon as it has rejoined.  In full flight, a Korg/guitar duo takes over the first 7 notes from the resampled theme.  Gosekky’s tenor saxophone will supply here a more ‘modern jazz’ color, but the richly chromatic rhythm section (Masaki Kurihara, Yasuhiro Yoshigaki, Nobuo Fujii, Gen Oogimi, Itoken), thickens the texture, especially when reinforced by electronic reversals.  Two guitars (Y.Otomo & K.Takai) improvise separately against Kurihara’s repetitive bass line.  The tabla re-appears, and then we are exposed to a cheesy Korg plunging into a high range hijacked from children’s TV programs.  By now the groove has grown into an excellent dance piece.  If Jacques Tati’s “Playtime” was remade today, the final dance hall scenes would surely require the participation of Date Course Pentagon Royal Garden. 

 

S

This enigmatically entitled track is a bossa nova for electric guitar and a groovy clavinet.  I find it astounding how often Japanese avant-garde musicians relate to this musical format.  From Toshiaki Yokota’s “Flute Adventure”, through After Dinner’s “Sepia Ture” to Yoganants’ most recent “Bethlehem”, the relaxed musica da praia has enthralled the Japanese artists.  The cultural affinity is always there, introduced by Stan Getz’s classics 45 years ago and reinforced by the special relationship between the two countries and their reciprocal migrations.  The rhythm section here exhibits none of the density and fibrous precision of the rhythm section as we knew it in the previous tracks.  The bossa nova is sensual and breezy and whenever it hesitates, it restarts form a sample.  Organ and soprano provide a rarefied melodic content for a fleeting love story.  Suddenly, two fuzz guitars change the setting, with the help from Masayasu Tsuboguchi’s groovy clavinet.  The compact rhythm section is with us again.  The guitar and keyboard improvisations are atonal and a-rhythmic, but so much is happening within the rhythm section that one could wonder who grabs in the limelight.  When the percussive forest disappears, a screaming guitar and tabla break through.  After a short break the bossa nova returns.  Lambent flute and an empathetic rhythm section are with us this time, unhurried and old-fashioned in their modernism.  We could just as well join a party at Rio’s Museu do arte moderna…  Only some lustful synthesizer squeals in the background, disturbing the reverie… 

 

Circle/Line ~ Hard Core Peace

Electric piano commences in an almost “progressive” vein, only to yield to range-bound rhythm guitar, electronic pulsation and the 4-man strong percussive tropic back in action.  When the electric piano theme returns, the pulsating orchestra adopts a mantle of a full-bodied framework for a soprano saxophone.  The interplanetary keyboard is quickly drowned out by a fuzz guitar, but the clatter of the drum-percussion section is never really far.  When the soprano returns, the tinny clacking of Latin percussion will be at the ready, in full swing.  The soprano sax will harvest here the cleanest line yet.  By now, the brass section has entered a bop mood, surrounded by the unlikely tabla and sibilant aqua-color from the synthesizer.  If you bring back the memories of early 1970s, then a mix of Funkadelic and Miles Davis, with a pinch of British progressive orchestration would have yielded the basic recipe before you could fast forward 30 years and find Date Course…  The band realizes this, swinging big time with the guitar playing the chords that back then would have fallen on the reeds.  DCPRG’s evolutionary bravura reaches its apex when the real reed section charges through the percussive, keyboard.  Kurihara’s bass rumbles nimbly and a keyboard solo leads onto another brave horn section and then overlays and some.  The ultramodern big band’s panache reaches here Ellingtonian enthusiasm. 

 

Hey Joe

Cheesy 1970s electric keyboard makes an entrée, but is this Bill Roberts’ composition?  At first, it does not quite seem so.  Rather, it sounds like a clavinet galore, pushed forward mercilessly by the keyboard/rhythm combo.  The bass rumbles lower than usually.  The inserted turns are of heavy funk heritage, taking us back to the plopping, racy flux.  At the next turn, the heavy part is almost hard rock, softened by the plastic Korg sound.  Only after 6 minutes, do we recognize the terms and conditions of “Hey Joe”, the familiar.  Tsuboguchi’s organ is wheeling and dealing out consistent elements from the unforgettable hymn.  Later, the guitar will improvise within the scale, mostly in the higher register, but more with Ten Years After’s Alvin Lee-like sense of urgency than with Hendrix’ corporeal pyrotechnics.  Either way, the swirling organ will smelt the exchange until the very end.  An easily digested morsel…

 

Mirror Balls

Remember Mirror Balls hanging from the ceiling of 1970s discotheques?  I can’t recall if this theme relates to any of the era’s soul-funk topics, but the atmosphere is of an early morning dancehall closure.  Yes, it is funky, but intellectually so, in almost Stevie Wonder.  The dented notes remind us of his clipped vocal manner from the novel arrangements of the 1970s.  The horn section and the quacking keyboard loom up in unison to give us a jubilant, vivacious, almost catchy stimulus.  The flute makes its second appearance, slaloming between the rhythm section poles.  But when a polite guitar lays out the same program, we realize that this is little more than a collective tribute to the overall effort, with final statements by each musician.  

 

***

 

The DCPRG’s discography is somewhat confused.  Early stage repertoire was presented on positions 1 and 2 and reprised on 3 and again on 4.  Remixes from 1 and 2 can be found on 3.  In turn, 7 presents other versions of tracks already known from 5 and from 2.  That basically means that you should seek out 1, 5 and 8 as the best introduction to the band and then explore further the variation on the theme(s). 

 

1. DCPRG: “Report from Iron Mountain” (2001)

2. DCPRG / ROVO: Sino / Pan American Beef Stake Art Federations (2001)

3. DCPRG: “General Represantation Product Chain Drastism” (2002)

4. DCPRG: “Musical from Chaos” 2CD (2001-2003)

5. DCPRG: “Structure et Force” (2003)

6. DCPRG: “Chaos 2” (2003-2004)

7. DCPRG: “Stayin’ Alive/Fame/Pan American Beef Stake Art Federation 2” (2004)

8. DCPRG “Franz Kafka’s America” (2007)

Kikuchi’s constellation seems to be still active and new dvds occasionally surface from more recent live exposure.  In case you heard of new studio recordings, Sonic Asymmetry would like to learn about them…

 

 

 

 

 

 

ROLLERBALL: “The Trail of Butter Yeti” *****

Recorded 2000-2001.

 

Rollerball is a rock avant-garde band from Portland, Oregon. After a derivative and somewhat epigonic beginnings immortalized on “Garlic”, the formation regrouped under drummer Gilles and developed a rich palette of approaches singularly aware of the predecessors’ bequest. The line-up stabilized with Mae Starr on keyboards, Mimi Wagonwheel on bass, Bunny De Leon on reeds and later Amanda Mason Wiles on saxophones. The band willingly experimented with heavy editing and multitracking, but almost always within the context of rock aesthetics and well-defined rhythmic structures.

 

The band does not indulge in extended compositions, which may have limited their appeal among avant-prog fans. The writing is intense and saturated, but maintains a sense of balance and contrast. Their importance is yet to be recognized.

 

 

Pest

Pounding cadence by Gilles opens the record in a resolute fashion. The steady measure will swell until a plaintive, screeching saxophone heightens our expectations.

 

Yeti

Looped guitar adds to a shuffling, almost reverting rhythm on this (semi-) title track. It is almost instantly doubled up by a disoriented, vaguely Beefheartian guitar, which reluctantly scrambles around. Concussive cymbals cackle and jamble. Well place, smeared fade-out will only be interrupted by a warmhearted goodbye from the electric guitar.

 

Lon Chaney

This is a more assiduously constructed composition. In the first movement, harpsichord-like keyboard opens and soon meets a full bodied reed section. The combo accelerates but winds down prematurely. In the second movement, Rollerball sits down to a complex avant-prog etude, with piano and rhythm section accompanying an anthemic female vocal. The mix quality brings to mind early U-Totem’s Emily Hay or Deborah Perry of mid-era Thinking Plague. When the saxes return, the electric guitar is too anemic to soldier on and the promising progression lapses. In the third movement, after a solo bass overture, the wind section altercates with the right handed piano. The focus shifts over to a guitar that tiptoes aimlessly, until it is rescued from immobility by the saxes, the drums and the piano.

 

Butter Fairy

Dull, idiophonic opening evokes jangling Javanese bonnang. A string instrument responds to the call, dragging behind suspect murmuring. Enter the drums. The string instrument turns out to be nothing more than an electric guitar, even though it continues to strum around with a zither-like timbre. It’s here that Mimi Wagonwheel’s contrabass infrasounds will bolster the drum beat, resurrecting the ghosts of Jaki Liebezeit’s most memorable moments. Sibilant voicings come and go. Clarinet revisits this section, but does not disrupt the increasingly hypnotic flow. The deadpan guitar works out effortlessly on a robotic treadmill. After a short pause, the neurotic rhythm returns, allegro moderato, with the clarinet somehow lingering on. The continuous banging is imperceptibly morphing into a dry, leathery resonance. When the intensity of the beat subsides, we finally notice the indefatigable guitar’s harmonic support that must have been laboring in the background all along. If this track defines the second half of the record’s title, then it does so deservedly.

 

Truth

Holger Czukay’s fans will be excused for their distraction. The backward taped voices employed by Rollerball on this interlude are redolent of Canaxis’s first minutes. Nothing else – lighthearted wooden percussion, windy background effects and sinuous electronics – will matter much here.

 

Narcisse

We enter a coffee shop noisescape, confounded by children’s voices, and bits of female conversation. When this sketch fades, a song is intoned a cappella. It is closely followed by a melody built from a vicarious quartet of piano-bass-drums’n’tapes. The tune continues to filter in and out between a cappella element and the processed, percussive dash of subtle, instrumental editing. The parenthesis is closed with a honky tonk prattle in the distance.

 

White Death

Bells and percussion introduce a heavily processed female alto that loses little time to gain in dynamic. Mae Starr’s electric violin searches out the same pitch in a wavy manner. This duel makes for a disorienting experiment. Densely scribbled percussive daubings destabilize what could otherwise be a fashion show for vocal chords.

 

Earth 2 Wood

Bold and straightforward, as only a song can be. Amanda Wiles and Bunny DeLeon initiate this piece on tenor saxophone and trumpet, further bolstered by the piano and rhythm section. The chorus is multitracked and occasionally visited by an unlikely accordion.

 

Can’t Run the Dogs That Hard

A man reads a poem to the accompaniment of lyrical guitar and piano. The saxophone passage emphasizes the loneliness of these introverted ruminations. This is Rollerball at its most melodic and introspective. But seemingly refracted thuds will keep it from becoming lacrimal.

 

Line of Perpetual Snow

Wind chimes and accordion move with the urgency of a giant’s breath. The atmospheric circularity will be sustained by a sleepwalking female vocal. After 2 minutes, a more macroscopic image is articulated via multilayered reeds and accordion. And when Amy Denio-like yodelling bursts in, we may just as well join in for a swirl of faux waltz.

 

Smokey Loved Bacon

Cadaveric dogs bark through the fog of sputtering late evening smoke. Is it Smokey? The sound source is too amorphous to tell, but we surmise that it is animate. This raises our level of apprehension. The release comes when high pitched chords finally take over and drift off in a coda.

 

***

 

If you have a chance, search out Rollerball’s output, especially the recordings from their creative peak 1999-2001.

 

ROLLERBALL: Garlic (1997)

ROLLERBALL: Einäugige Kirche (1999)

ROLLERBALL: Bathing Music (2000)

ROLLERBALL: Porky Puppet (1998-2001)

ROLLERBALL: Long Walk for Ice Cream (2000-2001)

ROLLERBALL: Trail of the Butter Yet (2000-2001)

 

The band has continued to record, apparently in a more decisively ‘jazz-rock’ vein. I have not heard these recordings, which does not mean that they should be avoided.

 

Published in: on May 20, 2008 at 10:33 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: ,