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Sunday, November 6, 2011

Paul Kikuchi - Portable Sanctuary, Vol. 1 (Present Sounds, 2011) ***½

By Stef

I knew drummer Paul Kikuchi from his recordings with the Empty Cage Quartet, but now he sent me some of his own material, in a different musical category entirely. The approach is minimalist, with dark soundscapes that take their time to develop and gain momentum. On these albums as a leader, he is more of a percussionist than a drummer, using all kinds of instruments and object, often self-made, to create their eery soundscapes.

On Portable Sanctuary he is accompanied by Stuart Dempster on trombone and conches, Bill Horist on electric guitar, Jesse Olsen Bay on percussion and guitar, Alex Vittum on percussion and electronics.

The words that best describe the music are "restraint" and "tension", with notes being used sparingly, adding slight changes in color and mood. The sound of Horist's electrical guitar is like the worst of fusion guitars - a little vulgar, but to the musician's credit, he is sufficiently disciplined to use his instrument to create music, with the exception of one outburst at the end of the long first piece.

The three other tracks have less of a story-telling nature, yet the mood they capture is again strong and ominous.

Listen and buy from CDBaby.

Open Graves - Flight Patterns (Prefecture Records, 2010) ****

The album "Flighpatterns" by Open Graves is even more minimalist, with Paul Kikuchi on percussion, Jesse Olsen on guitar and Stuart Dempster on trombone, and that is not only the result of the more limited line-up. The unusual percussion combined with the slow moaning sounds of the trombone create a kind of solemn, majestic feeling, while at the same time being utterly dark and gloomy.

Much of the atmosphere is intensified by the recording venue, the Dan Harpole Cistern in Port Townsedn, WA, an empty water supply system with a 45-second reverberation time, wich gives a feeling of utter drama to the overall sound. I'm not sure how much the musical vision presented here leaves room for further and future exploration, but the result here is so exceptional, that is really easy to recommend.

Listen and download from CDBaby.

© stef