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Toshimaru Nakamura + Ken Ikeda + Tomoyoshi Date – Green Heights

Wednesday 8th January / presented by Adam Trainer

Italian label Baskaru has gained a reputation for delivering beautifully textured audio artifacts that skirt the boundaries of sound art whilst almost always maintaining a musicality and dynamic sensibility that ensures their releases are utterly listenable. This release from three Japanese masters – Toshimaru Nakamura, Ken Ikeda and Tomoyoshi Date – is certainly no different, buoying an exploratory spirit with a grace and restraint that is beguiling.

Toshimaru Nakamura has become renowned for his use of no-input mixer as a drone instrument and noise-creation tool, and on this release he’s reasonably subdued, working his way alternately through blankets of smooth, rounded drones and delicate feedback wobbles that sometimes sound as though they’re hanging suspended from wires, delicately eddying in the breeze. They provide a reasonably stable and quite exquisite soundbed over which the other two musicians can alternately layer both textural and musical elements.

Tomoyoshi Date plays toy piano and field recordings, and on the opening track ‘Balcony I – α’ the former drives the piece beautifully, albeit incredibly pensively, underpinned by a decisively minimal generated signal from Nakamura. Rounding out the trio is Ken Ikeda’s analog electronics, which are deployed in a deftly understated manner. The opening track progresses masterfully from gentle ease to elegant clutter over its ten minute running time, with Date’s toy piano eventually ricocheting around and disappearing inside atonal hums and crackles. Although the track descends into noise, it never loses its assuredness and patience.

‘Balcony I – β’ transforms the gentle whimsy of the opening piece into a woozy tonal drone piece. At first slightly uneasy and disconcerting, a third of the way through it blossoms into a gorgeous meditation on chiming melody, before returning to the pensive unease it started with. By the piece’s end it sits somewhere between the two, with added texture from analog crackles and pops. ‘Balcony II’ comes across as an attempt to condense into nine minutes, what the previous two tracks achieved in nineteen, and as such it feels less remarkable, a little more prosaic in it’s approach.

‘Balcony III – γ’ begins with a low-frequency drone and scratchy field recording, before analog whirs and even more field recordings transport us into a gauzy, disconcerting, and entirely non-musical space. Sounding far more claustrophobic than anything else on the record, it makes for the most challenging piece on the record – not that that’s a bad thing. Over the course of its twelve and a half minutes it moves from greyscale rumbling to barely-there prettiness, finally resting in the upper eschelons of the frequency spectrum. Finally, ‘Balcony III – δ’ shifts from sentimental melody to buzzing analog reverie, ending with the toy piano, high-pitched signals and analog electronics that opened up the record.

Green Heights is named after the apartment complex that the three would rehearse and record in, and the tracks are all dedicated to the space they shared to reflect, drink and pause between playing. It’s obvious from these recordings that it’s a comfortable and comforting space, and the record is full of a good-natured familiarity that ensures the listener is aware how at ease the performers are. What is also abundantly communicated is the precision and microscopic focus that all three are capable of creating with their chosen instruments. Although at almost an hour in length Green Heights may like a stretch for sustained listening, each piece gives up new ideas and subtle variations on a theme that deserves to be left to gently and quietly unfold. There’s a patience and subtlety to these compositions that rewards diligent listening, but can just as easily wash over the listener if they allow them.

All live musical performances are included in our podcasts with the express permission of artists, who reserve all other rights in their music. All music used in our podcasts is licensed under an APRA Community Broadcasting license agreement.

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