In a parallel universe, one where improv looms slightly larger, I can see the tabloid headlines now - "Scary onkyo feedbacker comes of age" - as Toshimaru Nakamura and his no-input mixing board handcraft a user-friendly album for David Sylvian's label. It's a sonically rich collection, more accessible than his recent work, and aimed at a wider listening public, perhaps at some of those fainthearts who held back from purchasing 2007's Vorhernach, Nakamura's sizzle-and-splat session with German trumpeter Axel Dörner. Egrets's opener, a short no-input mixing board solo, has a fluffy, polychromatic quality, as if Nakamura is diving underwater in bright sunlight. "Semi" is a duet with old sparring partner Tetuzi Akiyama, whose acoustic guitar rings forth in hifi splendour, stepping in and out of tonal references. Akiyama plays not a single unnecessary note: a pure, glass-of-water performance beautifully matched with Nakamura's turbulent chirruping.
Much of Nakamura's recent output has been bracing and uncompromising, witness his Soba To Bara with Ami Yoshida, where the mixing board alternates between striplight-on-the-blink flicker and an ascetic, Sachiko M-type 3000 yard stare. But Nakamura also has previous as an entertainer. His solo debut (No-Input Mixing Board) is a rolling electronic romp, while Vehicle, recorded in 2002 as he was fighting a high fever, jumps out like a hectically looping variant of MicroHouse, the sound of a partying, fermenting natural phenomenon that Nakamura has somehow made audible.
Egrets maybe represents Nakamura not frightening the horses, as it were, but it's an intriguing evolution of his music, not a dilution. This time there's more hands-on activity, less sitting back and creating the weather. The slowly pulsing waves of "Nimb Number 43" are multilayered, with a poignancy reminiscent of Philip Jeck - good going, considering there's nothing here but feedback. A pair of duets with trumpeter Arve Henriksen are rich noise-scrapes. Nakamura is the whirring electricity substation, while Henriksen's gasps and popping valves are the toxic pond nearby, exhaling bubbles of gas. Meanwhile the splendid nine minutes of "Nimb Number 44" are addressed to those who doubted Nakamura's ability to work with glorious, shimmering chords. Hopefully Egrets is Nakamura's stepping out of the shadows to find wider recognition for his undoubted talents.
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