Takefumi Naoshima, Mitsuteru Takeuchi, Takehiro Hirama, Kanichiro Oda – 4September 3, 2012
Its been a good while since I wrote about anything thoroughly conceptual, but then its been a while since I received anything here from the Encadre label from Japan. Recently released though is the fourth in the series of discs by the four musicians/composers/troublemakers Takefumi Naoshima, Mitsuteru Takeuchi, Takehiro Hirama and Kanichiro Oda. The disc is titled, unsurprisingly, 4, and contains nine works of varying lengths, all of them solo pieces. I have to say, that while on one hand I fully expect something out of the ordinary from this group of musicians, I still found myself shaking my head in disbelief when I pressed play on this release.
The first track on the album takes up most of it. Its a track titled DJ Mix, credited to Naoshima. It is then, exactly what the title suggests it might be, a vaguely drum ‘n bass leaning mix of dance music, nothing more, nothing less.My limited knowledge of such areas of music makes me think of a mid noughties Aphex Twin, bu thte track changes and evolves, as if indeed a mix of various pieces together. It lasts, slightly crazily, forty-five minutes. Whether its all music composed by Naoshima, or if he has mixed other people’s records I don’t really know, but there are no further credits beyond his name. What really matters is that two thirds of what in theory is a highly conceptual CD of avant garde music consists of straight down the middle dance music. This, I really wasn’t expecting. The purpose of it, apart from to confuse the hell out of anyone listening, I don’t know.
The possible argument back that maybe I shouldn’t be approaching the disc as something “avant garde” and that perhaps this msuic should have just been listened to for what it was goes out of the window a bit when we are presented with the next piece of music, by Mitsuteru Takeuchi. The piece is titled CD Music and includes the additional note: “Please push the CD player’s fast forward button once as you listen to this track. (Do not use headphones)” So… if you press fast forward once the CD obviously skips on to track three. If you don’t press FFWD you get seven minutes of digital silence. That’s that track covered then. The next six pieces each last twelve seconds each and are credited to Takahiro Hirama. They are titled 123, 132, 213, 231, 312 and 321 respectively. Each of them contains three elements- a pretty awful eighties style poppy synth pattern, not unlike the intro to Harold F Faltermeyer’s Axel F, though not the same, then a synthesised guitar line, similar in style to Ethiopean guitar music, and then more cheesy synths, this time closer to something like Vangelis. Each of these little segments lasts four seconds, and each one has obviously been numbered 1, 2 or 3, because the six tracks basically each play these three elements in different orders, with no further changes to the sounds other than the order they are played in. The six tracks then flow one after another without a break, so all six different possible formations of the three sounds are heard. These pieces at the very least are put together in quite a clever way, even if the end result is just a stream of cheesy musical sounds. Then we are left with the final track, by Kaichiro Oda, which is titled The soundless audio of remaining time that was recorded piece of Naoshima, Hirama and Takeuchi to the 74 minutes CDR. As the title indicates, this piece is completely silent again, and lasts from the end of track eight through to the maximum 74 minute mark on the CDr, when it ends. Maybe the concept behind this track was that its length or significance wasn’t to be known until after the other three composers had submitted their contributions. Oda then allowed his silent piece to have its length decided by the remaining time left on the disc. We hear nothing at all.
As ever, we end up returning to the same questions regarding this music- does it have any value as a piece of music to sit down and listen to? Does it hold much value as something that makes us think? Perhaps the CD is designed to ask neither of these questions? Maybe it is just a piece of conceptual art in itself, and people like me asking the same questions each time about it complete that art, give meaning to it. perhaps it is designed to confuse, and it can only really be successful if someone, like myself, is indeed confused by it. I will admit that, while I tend to come to the conclusion that work as extreme as this tends to become not only unmusical, but through the simplicity of the ideas it portrays it doesn’t really leave all that much to think about either. I will admit to finding it a little amusing however, which I am sure was one of the goals of the composers, and as a kind of dadaist object that doesn’t really make much sense I quite like it, but I really don’t think that beyond the surreal aspects created by placing the long dance track beside the other more oblique pieces, that there is really much here that I am missing. It seems to exist to confuse a little, and thats about it. Not sure if that’s enough really. The disc can be bought from the Encadre. site, where also a number of free downloads can be found.