CD, Felicity, 2016
Kafka’s Ibiki is another name for the Tokyo-based trio of Tatsuhisa Yamamoto, Eiko Ishibashi and Jim O’Rourke, who form the recurring core of any number of other projects of their own collectively, as well as individually branching out to collaborate with others as with Ishibashi’s recent Kouen Kyodai project with Masami Akita (No.14 on this list). Where typically we are used to seeing this trio together as the backbone of either Ishibashi or O’Rourke’s solo projects, Kafka’s Ibiki comes across more as a space for them to explore the alchemy produced by all three together.
There’s more to Nemutte, however, than just three people in a room. The forty-odd minutes of the single track that makes up the album are less a jam session than a three-dimensional sound collage stitched together by O’Rourke from multiple sessions, each part distorted in a variety of ways, to the point where his bandmates were often unable to recognise themselves. Virtuoso performers though the trio might be, Nemutte is as much a masterclass in playing the studio as it is of instruments themselves.
That combination of finely honed studio work and the organic spontaneity of how the component elements initially came into being means that while Nemutte is broadly speaking an ambient record, it is at a more richly textured end of the spectrum than, for example, the no less immaculate but far sparser science of something like Brian Eno’s recent Reflections. Closer to home, it differs from Ishibashi’s Kouen Kyodai record in that it places the emphasis less on the intersections of two contrasting elements and more as a shifting pattern that undulates between multiple poles of influence. It differs too from the conceptual, mathematically determined wax and wane of Asuna and Fumihito Taguchi’s 100 Keyboards x 100 Record Players with 100 Sea Wave Records (No.19 in this list) in that while both albums build to a climax around their midpoint, from which they subsequently draw back, Nemutte is far more a piece of music, composed and structured less rigidly and with a greater ear for organic ebb and flow.
A closer comparison might instead by the impressive Don’t Light Up The Dark by Ippei Matsui, Ztomu Motoyama and Ytamo, which brings together similar organic musical elements within a similarly spaced-out sonic environment. Nemutte nevertheless still differentiates itself, maintaining a propulsive sense of urgency driven by minimal but driving bass and Yamamoto’s skittering drums. In fact, for all its layers, texture and musical complexity, one of the most striking things about the album is how much of a rock record it is, not only in the rhythm but in the heart-stirring mini-crescendo it starts to build to around the halfway point and quietly bouncing piano chords that it settles into afterwards. Just as Ishibashi and O’Rourke’s own pop and rock records regularly travel into more expansive musical territory, the dynamics of Nemutte suggest a recognition even in this decidedly experimental record the potential of rock’s instinctive grip on the emotions.There doesn’t seem to be anything from Nemutte available online, but this live clip features some elements of what the album is doing.
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