Thursday, May 21, 2020

Tatsuya Nakatani, John Edwards, Rafael Toral – Live in Lisbon (Noise Precision Library, 2019) ****

By Nick Ostrum

Since seeing him live solo and with his gong orchestra in Columbus, OH, in 2017, I have wanted to review Tatsuya Nakatani.  I even picked up several albums that evening.  Some, however, were too old.  Others were good (and recommended) but did not come close enough to capturing what I experienced live.  His music is music you feel, literally, through vibrations.  The layers of sound gather in the eardrums and resound throughout the room and surround the audience.  (Yes, this is an unapologetic endorsement for seeing him live whenever you get the chance.)    It is just too difficult to capture on record what makes Nakatani so unique live.  

Technical limitations aside, Live in Lisbon does an admirable job of capturing some of that physicality.  And, much of that has to do with his bandmates Rafael Toral and John Edwards.  Edwards, of course, is a legend of the English free improv scene.  Toral, however, was unfamiliar to me when I first listened to this.  FJB has covered him before and, as it turns out, he actually has appeared on several Sei Miguel releases I own.  It seems Toral gets around the Lisbon scene.  This album showcases why.  He has big ideas, concerted restraint, and a lot of talent. 

Recorded live in Lisbon and Cascais (a little west of the capital) in 2009, Live in Lisbon is a metallic (not metal) soundscape aficionado’s dream.  The three tracks are live recordings, and they sound like live recordings.  And, between the scrapes, crashes, sawing, electronic flutterings, space sounds, ball-bearings rolls, and, yes, even some straightforward walking bass and set drumming, it works remarkably well.  This music does not sound muddled or muted, as some of these live sessions do.  Instead, it sounds full. 

The musicians give each other space, but not too much space, and the sounds frequently bleed into each other.  The bass at times sounds like muffled beeps from Toral, whose electronic scrapes converge with Nakatani’s acoustic ones.   At other times, all three musicians forage through a thick morass of low tones, only to break out in an inspired collective improvisation of a caliber that I have rarely found in such line-ups. Often, electronics simply fill the background or shatter the eardrums.  Not in this case.  All three musicians expertly oscillate between back- and foreground, between lead and arrhythmic rhythm. 

All three tracks are powerful and deploy a similar bag of tricks, albeit to subtly different effects.  The first and second tracks – Lisbon and Cascais I - are wide-ranging, exploring the gamut from minimalist sound-sculpturing to brief, but satisfying explosions of sound, to spacy harmonies of bass, electronic, and bowed gong drones that you can almost feel.  Those movements lead into an extended stream of classic free improv (with electronics) explorations based as much on subtle sonic textures and wending contours as on the driving rhythm section.  The third track, Cascais II, paves a similarly brooding but glistening path.  A real pleasure, through and through.



Anonymous said...

You call Toral Toro all along your text :) And it is Rafael, not Raphael.

Nick Ostrum said...

Thank you for the corrections, Anonymous! And, Rafael, if you come across this review, please accept my apologies. I make mistakes frequently enough in the text, but they are rarely on such elemental matters.

Anonymous said...

I think you can suppress my previous comment now, and this one also.

Except this line:

Thank you for the review!

Jon Beaumont said...

Hi. I went searching for Nakatani and came across this, newly released. Live recording, full of energy.

Richard said...

I've had the privilege of seeing Tatsuya twice and it is an extraordinary experience. Another fine recording of his is:

Interactivity by Tatsuya Nakatani & Shane Parish

Anonymous said...

Thank you, what a pleasure to read such an inspired review. It's humbling to have been there playing with these two giants and having been able to make this material surface. Thank you for the corrections Anonymous - i got here with the corrections already in place, looks good ; )
I've been thinking more and more about the feedback loop between musicians and writers, for me it's a privilege that there are people, like you guys at FJB for example, who know what they're talking about and devote time and energy to engage more people in the music. More applause to writers. I think musicians and writers are colleagues and mutual support is important, as both are in service not of themselves but of the music and the audience.
Regarding Tatsuya, he is amazing indeed. His Gong Orchestra is on a different wavelength, but it's excellent, highly recommended!
Thanks and keep up the great work.

Rafael Toral said...

This is Rafael Toral on the previous post, but somehow my name didn't get through...

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