Review of Shizuku [12k1067]

Fluid Radio (UK)

In this latest 12K release Corey Fuller and Tomoyoshi Date, both currently residents of Tokyo, come together as Illuha for this study in space. In this case the space within a 100-year old church in Bellingham, Washington (US). Using “ambient and quad-microphone techniques” the pair were able to capture the natural acoustics of the building. Combine this with a large selection of mainly acoustic instruments and selected field recordings and the pallet is essentially complete for the 6 tracks that follow.

The opener “rokuu”, starts with a micro-soundscape that gradually builds with the introduction of a luminescent chord and the sounds of the sea. I was actually surprised when this was interrupted by a more traditional guitar chord sequence setting both tempo and the harmony for the ‘cello parts that follow, atypical of the album as a whole.

“Aikou” begins with a beautifully ambiguous chord and swiftly adds piano and distant percussion. This piece works best towards the end where the more chaotic elements are allowed to flourish and the harmony becomes more intense. Sonically there’s a lot going on here but the duo manage to control the space in such a way that very little is obscured for long. You’ll need to listen to this a number of times to stand a chance of following everything that is going on.

“Seiya” stands out on the album as having the strongest connection to Japan both sonically and musically and that’s before the element of poetry, read by the “renowned Japanese Tanka poet Tadahito Ichinoseki” is added. Simply put, many will find this the strongest track on the album.

Having said that, this is an album that does tend to keep on getting better with each track. In “Saika”, the use of solo instrument, in this case piano, works best here compared to other tracks on the album. The piece builds significantly with a range of plucked sounds and shimmering backgrounds. Again repeated listening will reveal the true depth of the arrangement.

The fifth track, “Guuzai”, in some ways has perhaps the least promising start, being somewhat melancholic, nothing wrong with that in itself but what a hidden beauty it turns out to be. A number of alternating high pitch drones are gradually joined by piano, guitar and percussion. There is a sense of anticipation but it’s only at around 4 minuets that the true beauty of the piece is revealed. Alternating between the two chords, gives it just enough movement to help it stand out beyond those pieces rooted in just the one. The result is a superb expression of love and compassion, at least, that was my interpretation. To an extent, the climb down at the end, works even better. Being more subdued, the piano, as well as other percussive elements, really shine through.

As would seem fitting for such a work, the final track instantly feels like a coda. Sonically it starts where the previous track ends, with the emphasis very much on the piano’s higher registers. As the piano gradually introduces more notes, almost reaching a collection of fractured pentatonic arpeggios, the whole piece is flooded by the final shifting chord. At the same time the sounds of the hall are heard in the form of foot steps and creaky floor boards.

Overall <i>Shizuku</i> works at every level. If the aim was to capture the building acoustic then this has largely been successful, although it would be interesting to see if this element could have been taken further. For me the stand out tracks are 3 and 5, although it’s all extremely good! It’s not the sort of album that is going to surprise you by a series of stealth shock moves but I guess that’s largely true of the genre and is probably just as well. It’s very hard to find anything to criticise but it is worth noting there is very little dissonance in the work and while there is nothing wrong with that, a few subtle discordant additions could have really helped to enhance this already beautiful work.

– Joe Evans for Fluid Radio

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