The "no-input mixing board" of Toshimaru Nakamura has become one of the scene defining instruments of "Onkyo" - the radical turn-of-the-century improv movement that redefined the roles of noise and minimalism in contemporary Japanese experimental music. Nakamura has played extensively alongside fellow innovators such as Sachiko M and Otomo Yoshihide and another veteran of this movement, guitarist Tetuzi Akiyama joins him for Egrets, a wonderful new record for David Sylvian's unwaveringly excellent Samadhi Sound imprint.
Egrets expands somewhat on the the conventional array of sounds within Nakamura's arsenal, although his sonic hallmarks remain present. There are four outright solo pieces here, each one a part of his ongoing 'Nimb' series. In these instances Nakamura harnesses the internal feedback potential of his mixing board to generate incredibly delicate and revelatory tones. Conventionally, such sonorities would manifest themselves as high frequency pitches or intense bouts of sculpted static, but for this release the music occupies a broadened scope, beginning with the complex, floating micro-polyphony of 'Nimb (number 42)' and continuing in a not dissimilar fashion through the heavily filtered, coarse, swelling chords of 'Nimb (number 43)'. Later on the album, we hear a return to the piercing extremities of Nakamura's hallmark sounds: the beautifully detailed, yet remorselessly piercing 'Nimb (number 44)' and the closing 'Nimb (number 45)', whose deep bass and crackle half brings to mind Pole.
For the non-'Nimb' entries onto the album Nakamura teams up with both the aforementioned Akiyama and Norwegian trumpeter Arve Henriksen, known for his acclaimed Rune Grammofon works, both as a solo artist and as part of Supersilent. These collaborations prove to be massively fruitful, stirring up some synergetic performances: 'Semi' pairs Akiyama's pensive guitar tracts with flickering, occasionally almost bird-like high frequency sounds from Nakamura in a very natural fashion, while 'Tane' finds Henriksen at his most avant-garde, rustling through clanking noises and fleeting vocal utterances as a network of electronic signals spreads out all around him. Positioned towards the close of the album, 'Yura' toys with head-splitting sine wave modulations and blubbery bass tones while Henriksen's filtered brass exhalations drone along in a creamily harmonious fashion.
Egrets is simultaneously challenging and highly musical (in an extreme sort of way), not to mention brilliantly produced - it's another essential release on Sylvian's very fine label.
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