Music

KAZE / Satoko Fujii / Natsuki Tamura: Tornado / Gen Himmel / Dragon Nat

Satoko Fujii and Natsuki Tamura push up and out and up and out some more on their third, fourth and fifth release of the year.


KAZE

Tornado

Label: Circum Libra
US Release Date: 2013-08-20
UK Release Date: Import
Amazon
iTunes
Satoko Fujii

Gen Himmel

Label: Libra
US Release Date: 2013-08-20
UK Release Date: Import
Amazon
iTunes
Natsuki Tamura

Dragon Nat

Label: Libra
US Release Date: 2013-08-20
UK Release Date: Import
Amazon
iTunes

Silly me, I thought Satoko Fujii and Natsuki Tamura were all done for 2013. The Japanese husband and wife team of avant-garde jazz usually release a smattering of albums at one time in any given calendar year. So when the ma-do quintet and Fujii's New Trio dropped simultaneous albums back in May, I thought that we had heard the last of them until 2014. Now, we are graced with three more! Not only do Fujii and Tamura each have new solo albums, Gen Himmel and Dragon Nat, respectively, but their incredible group KAZE is back for a second round. Their 2011 debut Rafale was more than just promising. Tremendous, even, so their sophomore album Tornado is probably a good place to start our dive into this threefer.

KAZE is led by no one – at least that appears to be the case. Christian Pruvost and Tamura share trumpet parts, Fujii is on the piano and Peter Orins holds the whole thing together bafflingly well on the drums. All members, with the exception of Pruvost, write material for Tornado, an aptly named album if there ever was one. The title selection is the third track out of a total of five, nestled right in the middle of the album. The first two tracks prepare you for the storm while the last two remind you "well, you'll never experience anything quite like that again, will you?" It's hard to tell if KAZE threw out the rules of composed/improvised music or just rewrote them, but their sound and energy remain highly original no matter what way you look at them. Avant-garde noise is sometimes just noise, but KAZE's sound and methods are beyond that. It's the sound of a deadly vine, choking or caressing its subject, passing through fury and tranquility with equal capability. It's surprising that the two songs that represent the latter trait are written by the drummer; "Mecanique" and "Imokidesu".

The title of Fujii's solo album translates to "toward heaven", which is a collection of songs dedicated to many of her recently-departed friends. Anyone who has followed Satoko Fujii this far into her career is already aware that she does far more than just sit on her bench and press down on the keys, especially on her solo albums. She also like to get up, lean into the open grand, and play the piano in any way that moves her. Preparing the inside with percussion, scraping the bronze-wound strings – this Fujii brand of ambiance/cacophony/maelstrom is what greets you on the title track. The prepared piano of "Take Right" is reminiscent of many a John Cage sonata also, hampering the strings in the lower-mid and upper registers as Fujii's fingers search for strange ways to say goodbye to old friends. Gen Himmel isn't really jazz and it's not an easy listen. Its inability to commit to any conventional form of jazz or classical make it difficult to pin down if you really are hung up on classifications and genres. And although it deals with death, Gen Himmel is not a depressing album, but a reflective one – in the way that death makes you ponder rather than just cry.

Natsuki Tamura has the toughest assignment – a solo trumpet album. Dragon Nat is a collection of songs he wrote for his chamber group Gato Libre, only this time there is quite a bit of extra room for him to take the music wherever he feels like taking it. This is detectable from the two tracks on Dragon Nat that were featured on Gato Libre's Forever album last year. Gato Libre, already an adventuresome project that used just guitar, trumpet, accordion and bass, still treated Tamura's songs in a natural manner, i.e. everyone has a part and everyone follows each other accordingly. But when songs like "Forever" and "World" get translated to a Natsuki Tamura solo album, they're treated like extended solos. Rubato is not only expected, it's almost a requirement here. Unsurprisingly, Dragon Nat is a more difficult listen than Gen Himmel. And just like his wife and her instrument, Tamura is able to produce sounds on his trumpet in more ways than one. His lips go loose on the title track, and only the most talented of trumpet virtuosos can tell me what's going on with his throat and tongue. A box of percussion toys helps Tamura push through the 12-minute "Dialogue".

Satoko Fujii and Natsuki Tamura have had, once again, a very good year. Between the two great albums by New Trio and KAZE, the one masterpiece by ma-do and two creatively subversive solo albums, I almost feel bad for this couple. Here they are sacrificing so much of their time together to give us more and more great music. If I were them, I'd start a Kickstarter campaign ... to go on vacation.

8

The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

Keep reading... Show less

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less
Theatre

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less
10

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less
7

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image