CD, Enban, 2016
This is an album that I feel compelled to include here if only for the sheer, audacious, self-indulgent fact of its existence. 100 Keyboards x 100 Record Players with 100 Sea Wave Records is a concept album in the sense that the concept is there in the title, and the two creators (Tokyo record store Enban owner Fumihito Taguchi and Kanazawa-based organiser and Aotoao label boss Asuna) then proceed to methodically deliver precisely what the title promises and nothing else. Once I’d figured out that “sea wave” wasn’t a hip new musical genre but rather literally refers to sound effects records of waves crashing against the shore — or rather what appears to be one hundred copies of the same record — I had a fair idea of what I was letting myself in for before even listening to it.
Asuna is no stranger to taking geekishly esoteric ideas and dragging them out to absurd extremes. One of his earlier ongoing projects has been the curation of a series of miniature 8cm CD compilations exclusively composed of one-minute songs made with Casiotone keyboards. His “one hundred keyboards” and “one hundred toys” performances are clearly extensions of the same mindset, exploring an overlapping zone between conceptual art and the comedy of the absurd. It’s also fascinating as a (possibly unintentional) study in obsession — of a networked, otaku-derived mode of thinking that increasingly permeates society, from the intricately interconnected universes of Marvel and DC to the ecosystems collectible character goods that surround idol groups.
Where projects like Asuna and Taguchi’s differ, however, is in the personal and direct nature of their networks. Asuna’s Casiotone compilations feature only artists he knows and has met in the flesh, while Taguchi travels the country with a portable record player, introducing obscure, kitsch vintage records in person to small crowds in bookstores and cafes. 100 Keyboards x 100 Record Players with 100 Sea Wave Records was recorded live in a large room in Tokyo, with the various pieces of equipment arranged and triggered manually, recorded in large part with home-made microphones. It’s almost as if the artists are mocking us for our lack of commitment to our obsessions.
If it seems like I’m studiously ignoring discussing the music here, that’s because I am. 100 Keyboards x 100 Record Players with 100 Sea Wave Records ends up as a drone record by default as a result of drone being the logical end result of the concept. There was probably some consideration between Taguchi and Asuna that the gradually rising and then ebbing away of the sounds these two hundred devices make would produce a pleasurable sensation in the ears of listeners, and yeah, it does. The removal of the “player” element of the performance also brings closer to the foreground the relationship between the sound waves generated by these machines and the physical space in which it occurs (in this case a hall in Tokyo’s Sangenjapa Carrot Tower), not to mention the effect the occupants of the room have on the sound. Its value, however, still mainly lies in the sheer, dadaist stupidity of the enterprise and the artists’ admirable dedication in seeing it through, and even if the result had been horrible, it would still have been brilliant.
There doesn’t appear to be any footage of the actual performance (which was a one-time-only thing), but here’s Asuna and his keyboards alone as a taster.
Filed under Albums, Reviews