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Thursday, March 16, 2017

Suidobashi Chamber Ensemble - S/T (Meenna, 2016) ***

By Nicola Negri

Suidobashi Chamber Ensemble (SCE) is a chamber group devoted to contemporary and experimental music formed in 2016 by flute player Wakana Ikeda. The other members are Taku Sugimoto (guitar), a key figure of the Japanese free improvisation scene, with Yoko Ikeda (viola), Aya Naito (bassoon) and Masahiko Okura (clarinet and bass clarinet).

The five tracks on this album include performances from two concerts held at Ftarri, Tokyo, in May and July 2016, where SCE performed works by the composers of the Wandelweiser group, with pieces by Jürg Frey, Michael Pisaro and Antoine Beuger.

Dealing with Wandelweiser material, is no surprise that all these compositions have in common the exploration of sound through silence, and the record’s program reinforces this underlying theme delineating a sort of route from the almost complete silent “Exact Dimension without Insistence” by Frey, to the somewhat busier “Festhalten/Loslassen” by Pisaro. The instrumental combinations follow the same lines, from the duo configurations of the first tracks to the full ensemble on the closing piece. The musicians interventions are kept at an absolute minimum, with single notes appearing sporadically, slightly overlapping or left alone in the performance space, reducing the musical fact to its bare essentials – no extended techniques, no complicated harmonic relations – putting it under a magnifying lens, slowing it down beyond intelligibility, inviting the listener to decipher its hidden logic. Interestingly, chance have little space here – as Ikeda relates in the liner notes, in one piece children's voices could be heard in the original recording, and those parts were promptly edited out.

There’s always an intriguing aspect in these kind of explorations: on one side the theoretical preoccupations about the experimental aspect of this music are obvious, and at the same time there’s the spontaneousness of embracing ambience acoustics, and the environment we all live in, as the building block for the music to emerge – without effort, without necessarily a meaning.