CD Reviews

Friday 17th July

July 17, 2009

So you get home after a long hard week at work, soaking wet because you got caught in a thunderstorm, run a hot bath, pour a pot of tea, lay back to soak and put on some highly conceptual, virtually unlistenable music. Hmm… who spotted the bit that sets me apart from the crowd?

Indeed I have just got out of the bath, where I laid for an hour recovering from the stresses of a tough day and a long week. I know I was there for an hour because while in the tub I listened to all of Takefumi Naoshima’s new release on his Encadre label named Three Lines, which contains two tracks of thirty minutes each in length. I have written before about the output of Encadre. The label has released half a dozen or so very peculiar, somewhat conceptual recordings, and this one is no different. At first I had hoped Three Lines was a cover version of Baddiel and Skinner’s football related song, but alas it isn’t. It is in fact two half-hour long pieces that seem to be very rough, lo-fi recordings of people reading texts (in Japanese) taking breaks every so often, within which the background noise of the surroundings take over. Whenever the reader is talking, Naoshima also adds a slow, metronomic (and slightly annoying) pulse, on the first track with the click-track of a drum machine, on the second my just clapping his hands.

And that is it really. The first recording with Naoto Fruta and Toshihiro Yoshida  doing the reading, sounds like it was made indoors. In the gaps between the murky speaking parts there is just the familiar hum of roomtone to be heard, quite comforting in its familiarity and lasting about thirty seconds, but too quickly broken by the speaking voices again. As the two speakers talk, quite rapidly, reciting just one or two lines each at a time in turn, with one taking over from the other immediately after they have stopped, the click-track ticks over, halting each time the speakers break off into silence. The second version of the piece (They are named Three Lines (1) and (2) ) contains a little more to listen to, mainly because the recording is made in what sounds like a public area, maybe a shopping mall or similar type of area. The voices are quieter, as if further from the microphone, the clapping that replaces the click-track is very soft, occasionally drifting almost out of earshot when the external sounds are louder.

Of course, the question is Why? As usual there is no explanation on the sleeve, just the information about the performers and several drawings, each representing three lines in some way. How are we meant to process this music? Is it meant to be enjoyed? Is it meant to just irritate? Is there some deep significance to the words spoken? (Anyone heard this that can translate at all?) I find myself as perplexed and curious about this release as with most of the Encadre material. It really isn’t something nice to listen to, I doubt I will play it again, I would struggle to recommend it to anyone, but still I keep buying these releases, and will continue to do so, in the hope that maybe at some point the penny might drop. Yes I know how ridiculous that sounds, but I do really like the sense of determination I get from these discs, the feeling that they will continue to do what they do irrespective of what anyone might say, or how many CDs they sell. I am not sure why I feel this, but there is an honesty to these releases, they don’t seem to be out to shock the world, or teach us how to listen differently, but they are just ideas, only partly about music, presented to us to consider.Â

Hmm. I’m going to play some Beethoven next.

Comments (5)

  • graham halliwell

    July 17, 2009 at 11:55 pm

    “Hmm… who spotted the bit that sets me apart from the crowd?”

    Me. Most people would take shelter from the storm and keep dry.

  • jon abbey

    July 18, 2009 at 1:10 pm

    haven’t heard this one yet, but do have a few copies en route for distro.

    Richard, I don’t remember you mentioning it, but have you heard the Luke Fowler/Toshiya Tsunoda disc that Tsunoda put out a few months ago? that’s another entirely baffling conceptual one, at least to me.

  • Richard Pinnell

    July 18, 2009 at 1:11 pm

    Actually no, that one has somehow slipped past me. Thanks for the reminder.

  • lukaz

    July 22, 2009 at 12:13 pm

    for me there is close connection i think w this release to Taku Sugimoto’s release ‘Three Speakers’ on Slub Music. Here are Taku’s liners:

    “Three Speakers” consists of quotations from several kinds of texts that, from comics to books of philosophy for instance, written in Japanese or translated into Japanese from the other languages, I like a lot ! The composition includes the texts written by Hilary Putnam, John Ashbery, Konrad Lorenz, Marcel Duchamp, Jacob Bronowski, Taruho Inagaki, Taku Sugimoto and others. Each text is read by one person, or is read by two or three persons in unison. Sometimes one text is interrupted or superimposed by other texts and sometimes three different texts are read simultaneously. In this music there is no melody, no musical instrument, no sound that can entertain listeners. What I intended and expected for this composition is what can happen from the texts which have meanings; and I was curious what can happen when texts are read by more than one person or are interrupted or superimposed by other texts. Most of the musicians, even in the field of “experimental music,” tend to avoid dealing with meanings. As opposed to this, now I think it would be interesting to compose a piece, not with sounds itself, but with sound which has meaning.
    I am sorry to say that this attempt make a sense only for people who can understand Japanese language. But I hope that to listen to this recording without meanings can make a different sense as when I listen to foreign language, sometimes Japanese too, without meaning just like listening to music: though that is not what I intended for composing “Three Speakers.” Taku Sugimoto

    … so at least Sugimoto give us some indicators and aknowledges the shortcomings to non japanese listeners

  • Richard Pinnell

    July 22, 2009 at 11:36 pm

    Yes Luka that release did occur to me when I wrote this the other day. The other connection might be that I think I only ever played Three Speakers once as well! 😉

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