Signal to Noise

Yumiko Tanaka/Ivar Grydeland Continental Crust SOFA 517 Norwegian guitarist Grydeland's brief liner note provides useful context: «This music was composed and recorded at the venue Bridge in Osaka on April 17, 2004. Bridge is located high above the ground in the middle of the amusement park called Festival Gate-right between slot machines and the big roller coaster. .we could see the roller coaster puffing by every now and then -we could also hear it, and feel it. The whole building would shake each time it puffed by, like a small earthquake. Maybe this wasn't the perfect recording situation, but listening to the music now I feel it gained an identity of its own. The music on this CD somehow made me think of plate tectonics.» Grydeland on acoustic guitar and Tanaka on futizao shamisen (a small banjo-like instrument) and percussion somehow combine in these surreal circumstances to create improvisations of great intimacy and light. The instrumental voices are fundamentally small, however resonant, and the musicians take varied tacks to the space at hand, sometimes building dense overlays of rapid twanging lines, as on «Young Oceanic Crust» and elsewhere allowing isolated sounds to bend and waver as they decay, as in «Eurasian Plate from 7 Different Views.» The musicians have forged profoundly personal approaches to their instruments, to the extent that it's ironically difficult to tell them apart, whether it's a modified acoustic guitar or a shamisen that's carrying a particular line, but the difficulty is hardly problematical. This is music about submerging identity, whether in the free interaction of sound, floating high in space in an aged amusement park or diving in the oceanic imagination to the earth's shifting plates. It's music of compelling delicacy and rigor-especially striking when Tanaka plays and sings the traditional «Hidakagawa Iriaizakura» in the midst of an extended improvisation-but it feels resilient, not fragile, with a poetry all its own.