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Hibari Music: An Introduction

Japanese label run by deranged avant-garde musician who might be the most seminal of the century thus far (bastard refuses interviews, won't return my calls); focus on EAI/Onkyo and re-releasing 1970s obscurities; one of my favourite labels. If I was to encapsulate the breadth of the work on display, I would refer to Janet Malcolms defense of the incessant smoking in Franny and Zooey: the cigarettes aren't inessential wank, or even supplementary, but constituent, the motion of the smoke, the burn of the durry, the movement to and fro the mouth. The music might seem slow and recondite but it is always - always - in motion, a characteristic I'm immensely drawn to. thanks. here's ten of the best.
1Veliotis / Sugimoto / Kinoshita / Unami

to dispel some dominant misapprehensions, Quartet isn't silent. it isn't even still. it roars and teems with background noise, happy accidents of cello plucked at the wrong time. it's mixed quietly, so you have to work (although: all the better to enjoy the violin crackle in Improvisation, a drone in aceghd that might be the pinnacle of music) but, like life, not everything is big and bold. when overt music appears it's beautiful: the liminal space is a beautiful accompaniment. listening to this on sennheisers on the first time was my first experience with stendhal syndrome; a euphoric panic attack. the tension and release cycle, once you know what's coming, is second-to-none. the essential - and quintessential - hibari.
2Nikos Veliotis and Klaus Filip

recorded in "athens, on a lazy sunday 1st of march" if the liner notes of my CD are to believed. a cursory listen won't reveal much evidence to the contrary. louche, relaxed cello drone gradually mixes into computer-made textures until the two are indistinguishable, resulting in a melange as mournful as it is comfortable. A hazy midday nap. Also that is one damn relatable horse RIDE ON / MY PONY
3Takahiro Kawaguchi

the ticks of clocks, metronomes and other devices form a rhythm that envelops you in a swirl of minimal shoegazy field recordings until dizziness sets in - i say shoegazey because live performances require him to attend his collection of timepieces at his feet at all times, but the overwhelming effect is the name. Utterly arresting and a fascinating deconstruction of how we parse time and music, as well as pushing the boundaries of what a music device can be (i remember the first time i listened to this I looked around frantically because i could have sworn someone was doing some hammering in my room, so direct is the production). New-found insistence on mechanical drops and textures in electronic/brostep/bubblegum owe a lot to this one. Also extremely fond of a collab he did later, amorphous spores, where the minimalism is augmented by PC Music-esque maximalism.
4Masahiko Okura, Taku Sugimoto & Taku Unami
Chamber Music Concerts Vol. 1

the only sequel i'm eagerly awaiting. long, but a great variety of different styles of onkyo, all fluid - though some drip out the tap like treacle and sediment.
5Seijiro Murayama / Eric La Casa

a remarkably literal cover - some of the sounds here evoke water dripped onto a drum - hides a frenetic album complete with drum solos, field recordings of people talking and one particularly "woooooaaaaaah" moment when La Casa field records the sound of wind rushing into a car once a window's closed and integrates it with Murayama drumming with what sounds to me like some kind of gardening tool. An earthy album, though not down to earth. Weirdly I like doing my washing and ironing to this so
6Taku Unami
Electronics Solo

i mean come on look at that damn frog of course this is going to be good. fitting, seeing as how this album is Unami shedding off his tadpole beginnings, transmogrifying and taking the biggest damn lily pad at the EAI pond, just croaking away. I can only imagine if he finds the right suitor now he'll achieve his final metamorphis into handsome prince. laydeez ;)
Cymbal Violin Lapsteel

sorta retreads the same ground as Quartet with less success, but there are plenty of people who prefer it. this one probably deserves the "silent" moniker more, so if that was your favourite part you're going to love that one.
8Masafumi Ezaki
Trumpet Solo Vol. 3

electroacoustic flatulence: all those jokes about the trumpet sounding like a wet fart make sense here. but what a vast array of gusts, wind, little peepers and pre-guiness-shit monstrosities! The rest, i assume, are silent-but-violent. Joyce would jack off in a damn closet. I don't really like this but i do think it's funny because i have a sophisticated sense of humour and Rabelaisian wit,
9Cool Quartet
Dancing in Tomelilla

Before Hibari returned from hiatus (more on that later), this was the last album attributed to the label outside of reissues: Eric La Casa took field recordings from various locations of a fairly standard band playing innocuous, staid music before a crowd of chattering patrons. This first time "cool jazz" appears as a genre in hibari, sure, but as a farewell statement i thought it was kind of smug and elitist and it left a sour taste in my life: almost a comedic joke on the way all music is interstitial in a way, and how easy it is for music to be turned into muzak based on site-specific context (ha ha look at these sell-outs playing smooth jazz to appease the masses!!). But. Further listens reveal a deeply humane work that offers the Cool Quartet immense dignity as La Casa records them from all angles, offering a thoughtful panorama of their work. Once one's listening shifts from the field recordings to the jazz, one realises the point isn't to belittle the music: it's to celebrate it
10Sam Sfirri / Taku Unami

6 years is a long time between drinks (hopefully with the slugabed horse), with most assuming that absence had graduated from "hiatus" to "closed for business don't contact me i've moved to djibouti to sell tin-foil hats". and then out of nowhere (Unami tends to release his music in december, perhaps as a dig at the arbitrary "end of year" list) H E H A S R I S E N. he has risen indeed, with one of the finest albums on the label. rejoice. the observant might note the album cover's incongruity, and it is so terrible it becomes hilarious when upon listening to the record none of the instruments pictured make an appearance: instead we get washing machines, refridgerators, doors and vacuums. zymology is about the chemical process of fermentation, true of the album (sounds reappear in different, enhanced guises) and as apologia for absence. none required. a beautiful welcome back. < 3 < 3 < 3
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