Review Summary: Turn the lights down
Take yourself somewhere quiet. Places within reach, like a little dimly lit 6:00am coffee shop with a complementary view of the sun’s tired morning gaze. Ideal fantasy places, like a pastoral hideout outside the busy shire that solemnly rests within a camp of your own creation. Or perhaps it's most ideal to remain in a place as conspicuous and effortless as your own bedroom. Wherever you find peace, experiencing Taku Sugimoto’s Quartet / Octet
within it is quintessential. Recorded live at Kid Ailack Art Hall in Tokyo on October, 2013, Quartet / Octet
finds Sugimoto and a team of skilled musicians exploring sound and space within two compelling compositions. This ensemble consists of Taku Sugimoto (guitar), Taku Unami (sinetones), Nikos Veliotis (cello), Kazushige Kinoshita (violin), Klaus Filip (sinetones), Ko Ishikawa (sho), Moe Kamura (voice), Radu Malfatti (trombone) and Masahiko Okura (clarinet). Each member here comes from a variety of classically and experimentally trained backgrounds that form a simultaneously strange, eerie, delicate, and singular experience with Quartet / Octet
Opening things off is the brief two and a half minute prelude ‘Quartet’ which features Sugimoto on guitar, Unami on sinetones, Veliotis on cello, and Kinoshita on violin. ‘Quartet’ is a fragile and elegant piece that finds the four musicians evoking faint clouds of sound as they take turns playing little fractional melodies and distant subtleties that gently flow through one another into a wispy cloud of orchestral vapor. Throughout the piece Sugimoto’s guitar is heard plucking sparsely in the distance while Kinoshita’s violin lightly weeps, complementing Veliotis’ sustaining and high registered cello that keeps the mix skyward and afloat while Unami’s microtonal electronic tones are heard waving alongside. It’s an extremely sensitive sound that could score a wide range of emotions, like something as whimsical as a first kiss between lovers, or an aching goodbye within a long distance relationship; their love forced to withstand the pains of separation as a train leaves its station and obscures into a fog of uncertainty.
Following suite is the centerpiece ‘Octet’, an immense 31 minute piece that explores far more sparse and eerie sounds than its predecessor. Here the ensemble has picked up five new players (dropping off Kazushige Kinoshita on violin) that include Klaus Filip (sinetones), Ko Ishikawa (sho), Moe Kamura (voice), Radu Malfatti (trombone), and Masahiko Okura (clarinet). Beyond the sheer length and how disconnected and dispersed this composition is, the most notable difference here is the inclusion of Moe Kamura’s delicate vocals, which appear as sporadically as any other instrument, but coats the mix with an unsettling mysteriousness that’s difficult to pin down. Her voice acts as a faint human cry inside the octet’s labyrinth of bleak dissonance. Alongside these contraries, the twinkly glitter of Veliotis’ cello and Okura’s clarinet against Malfatti’s breathy trombone sustains and both Filip and Unami’s sinetones, ranging from hair rising highs to boisterous and droning lows, persistently punctures the mix in coarse contradictions and an overarching sense of sonic diversity.
The relatively low quality recording style of Quartet / Octet
creates an even more ambiguous and murky experience that forces you to listen at a high volume to gather individual sounds and put it all together. Listening at this suggested volume creates for a sound that, while small and faint on the surface, often comes off in a large and sweeping manner that grants these quiet sounds an aural intensity that suits them best. Sugimoto’s compositions throughout Quartet / Octet
work far more like collages of live instrumentation than the structured architecture that is typically yielded of orchestral music, focusing on the exploration of the physical traits of orchestral sound through multilayered fragmentation. Quartet / Octet
is about finding your center within these scattered sounds and letting them take you away to its solemn and out-world trajectory, a place that’s unbounded by the norms of classical composition, yet accommodating and generous to anyone willing to loose themselves within Sugimoto’s whimsical trance.