The Watchful Ear

Back at my normal place of work today after a week of being bored but relaxing a little in London. The return to hard work hit me hard today, and I’m pretty weary as I sit and type this tonight. Looking out of the window at the fierce red of the sky as the sun sets and music purrs away behind me I guess it would be hard to improve life all that much. At least for this moment anyway. This evening I have returned to the Koboku Senjû album titled Selektiv Hogst, recently released on the Sofa label. Koboku Senjû is the rather beautiful title given to the Norwegian/Japanese quintet of Toshimaru Nakamura, (no-input mixing board) Tetuzi Akiyama, (acoustic guitar) Espen Reinertsen, (sax and flute) Eivind Lønning, (trumpet) and Martin taxt (tuba). There are seven pieces here, all with suitably difficult Norwegian titles, recorded in the beautiful city of Trondheim, Norway in late 2008.

The music here is generally all a really good listen. All improvised, the stark contrasts between the flutter and dry groans of the wind instruments against the slow, melancholic finger picking of Akiyama’s guitar and the familiar fizz and whistle of Nakamura’s mixer gives the music a crunchy edge. The warmth of the Norwegians’ playing, coupled with Akiyama’s bluesy playing, which reminds me almost of Tilbury’s piano in its gentle accompaniment mode here are offset by the electronics of Nakamura, which are as ever perfectly weighted to give an abrasive face to the prettier material, a gentler tonal undercurrent to the busier pieces.  There is a nice sense of balance throughout the album, that combination of the acoustic and electronic that invariably wins me over.

I often see music in my head as colours, strips of knotted colour on some occasions, flashes or fields of tone on others, depending on the music. This is certainly the case here. The warmth of the wind instruments appear as purples and golds, the more breathy, low sounds are shades of grey, Nakaumura’s  slithers of feedback all bright colours, yellows and white, with Akiyama dropping deep scarlet notes throughout. I mention this because of the depth of colour and texture in this music, it’s a very rich field of sounds, combinations of long pitches punctuated by shorter sounds, bit of melody, soft, pretty passages and gritty, dirty broadsides. It’s a hard one to compare to very much else. Its clearly improvised,  and trying to describe what makes it sound individual is difficult, but the mix of three wind instruments, the bluesy guitar and the undercurrent of electronic is quite unusual and brings a blend of sounds that on paper shouldn’t really work, but in reality come together very nicely.

A luscious, bright and rich disc then, another example of the blossoming relationship between these two Japanese musicians and Scandinavian collaborators that has brought a nice little flurry of enjoyable music of late.