Mattin / Taku Unami 
h.m.o/r 3 (w.m.o/r co-released with hibari music)

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When you listen to a CD of improvised music, where is really the improvisation taking place ?
Many would say that improvisation happens only among the musicians while recording the CD.
The musicians spontaneously create a musical piece in the moment of playing,
that the audience is supposed to then simply enjoy and appreciate through the recording
- especially if they have paid for the CD. This way of thinking favors clearcut boundaries between producers and consumers.

''Attention'' questions the fictitious divisions that exist in hearing recorded improvisation:
isn't the listening experience also an act of improvisation?

There is no outside to improvisation.

While hearing the CD that you have put in your CD player, you cannot isolate the sounds coming from the CD from those coming out of the CD player, or the computer, or the washing machine or the street. The improvisation is happening in the head of the listener, it is impossible to take a CD as a finite statement that can be constantly replicated through a perfect listening experience.

Something as simple and important as choosing the volume of how to listen to the recording is a very strong decision that determines the sound and the meaning of the work. Other aspects determined by your economic possibilities also affect your listening experience, such as the quality of your stereo, or whether you have download the piece or bought it.

You are constantly improvising with your immediate surroundings!

''Attention'' is an attempt at addressing the listener directly, making him/her engage in a process of self-reflection. It suggests that any listening experience is mediated both by the context and the choices made by the listener, which alter the meaning of the work and become part of the creative process, even if people at the top of the music production chain – musicians and producers - might say it is not.

  1. (74:00)

Mattin: voice
Taku Unami: guitar

Drawings by Tomoya Izumi

Released in October 2007

Review of presentation concert at KuLe in Berlin
by Diego Chamy published in whitehotmagazine


Negative Potential

Mattin and Taku Unami - Attention

8. Februar 2008

“So, if you have done things properly, we all have been here for an hour. How much do you usually get paid per hour?” - Mattin

This recording is an invitation to think. In that respect, it distinguishes itself from the majority of releases on the market, even within the admittedly marginal sub-genre(s) where improvised music, experimental electronics, noise, and conceptual art intersect.

Already, though, some listeners have succumbed to the temptation to dismiss this CD in a facile manner as merely a juvenile prank, a cheap exercise in intellectual one-upsmanship, or a confession of creative bankruptcy. Even the relatively benevolent review by Brian Olewnick at Bagatellen seems to reduce the disc to the status of mere snotty polemic, a pointed jab at the obsessive (and self-obsessed) subculture of musical fandom.

Once upon a time, certain protagonists of improvised music sought to engage critically with questions of music making, the social field in which improvised music is embedded, audience participation, and the dissolution of the performer/audience dichotomy. As Felix Klopotek writes in an entry on AMM in his book how they do it: Free Jazz, Improvisation, und Niemandsmusik:

“Compositional praxis, musical praxis in general, should abolish and transcend itself. The premises that determine what one understands to be a composition, what one understands to be a performative praxis, should be thwarted to the extent that it is possible to understand musical praxis as a genuinely social praxis.”

AMM now has a secure place in the canon of post-serialist new music, as well as the post-jazz improvisational avant-garde. And the recent elevation of Keith Rowe by his financial patron Jon Abbey to the status of “virtuoso” (a notion which seems to contradict the original intent of such music) serves notice that music with once revolutionary ambitions is now as sanctified and permissable as anything on offer from Deutsche Grammophone or any big city symphony orchestra. The use of gastronomic adjectives by fans of this music (such as “tasty” or “sumptuous”) is also a rather discouraging sign.

So we as listeners can be thankful to Mattin and Taku Unami for prodding us to question our own role as listeners. One could, if one wanted, experience this disc purely at the level of an exercise in listening, and indeed, there’s enough initial evidence to support such an approach (O-Ton Mattin: “turn up the volume” - “I said turn up the volume”). However, it becomes quite clear with the progression of the disc that questions of one’s role as passive spectator, as audience, should be called into question, and indeed, the invitations to reflection transmitted by Mattin (“what are you thinking about?”) even suggest that the listener make his/her own thought processes an integral part of the proceedings, even if such temptation is later (paradoxically) foiled (“stop thinking; just listen to us.”)

These critical questions/remarks concerning the listener as consumer ( “how much did you pay for this” - “this stereo is not good enough for this music” - “you should work harder and get a better stereo”) are most fruitful when they become reflections upon the central role of the economy of labor time which constitutes all of us in our essential being as subjects in the world. Indeed, these considerations of the economy of labor time (“you paid for it” - “and if you haven’t, you’re giving us your time” - “listen properly, otherwise it just becomes a waste of time”) are a testament to the fundamental integrity which underlies this effort.

And on that note, and as a thank you to Mattin and Taku Unami, I offer the following from the Grundrisse:

“Labour time as the measure of value posits wealth itself as founded on poverty, and disposable time as existing in and because of the antithesis to surplus labour time; or, the positing of an individual’s entire time as labour time, and his degradation therefore to mere worker, subsumption under labour.”

Revue&Corrigée (September 2008)

MATTIN / TAKU UNAMI "Attention", h.m.o/r 03. Dist. Metamkine.

Numéro de frères siamois de l'improvisation radicale, clowns soniques surprenants, parfois agaçants, souvent géniaux, courant de l'extrême silence au bruit extrême, glissant des peaux de bananes dans le discours de l'improvisation, convoquant autant Hijokaïdan que John Cage. A pieds joints dans le confort d'écoute, les petites messes de l'impro, nous mettant aux lèvres cette question hargneuse : "C'est quoi ce truc ? A quoi ça joue ?". Aporie de la musique aujourd'hui où le chant montant des ascenseurs bercent aussi sûrement les auditeurs que le sax grinçant de Peter Brotzman et ses "Machine Gun" ou les ballades de Peggy Lee. "Attention" comme un impératif ou une injonction, comme pour prévenir que l'objet ne sera pas facile, réticent à l'écoute. De toute façon au-delà des seuils de l'audible, sons se perdant dans une grande surface blanche, autant suivre des pas dans la neige sous un soleil aveuglant. MATTIN au "chant", UNAMI l'accompagnant à la guitare, duo iconoclaste de deux gamins espiègles s'amusant à piéger nos attentes. On entend surtout le souffle de nos enceintes (aussi les bruits du voisinage), troué de quelques notes sèches et rares de guitare (jouée comme dans les disques du dernier Taku Sugimoto), rien de plus que des poussières comme les mirages entrevus dans l'adaptation du bouquin de Dino Buzatti "Le Désert des Tartares", rien ne finira par advenir, l'attente n'étant rien d'autre que sa mise en abîme. Ici du silence. 1h14mn sans évènements (entendre riffs, mélodies déconstruites ou non, constructions apparentes), guitare jouée distancée en pointillés, dot … dot … dot … où chaque son est un point balisant l'écoulement du temps. "Turn up the volume !", injonction encore de MATTIN, moins pour associer l'auditeur à l'acte musical que pour affirmer des règles d'écoute. Voix neutre donnant cette indication pour re-disparaître dans un silence éprouvant notre patience. Quel plaisir d'écoute ? Est-ce que ces nouvelles musiques s'appréhendent à travers cette question du plaisir ? En résumé, une centaine de notes gravées sur ce disque, et une douzaine de questions posées à l'auditeur comme lyrics. De Johnny Cash à Whitehouse, les groupes ont toujours pris à partie leur public, seulement ici c'est moins l'auditeur qu'ils interrogent que le consommateur, l'économie de ces musiques "underground". MATTIN enchaîne par une série de questions posées d'une voix blanche : "How much did youp pay for this ? - This stereo is not good enough for this music - Don't think! Just listen to the music …Give us your attention - You are listening to us for a reason - we have been here for an hour … How much did you paid for this CD ? - This is underground music - Nobody makes money out of this - You dont support us ? - What's going on". Et de conclure : "Tell us what do you think about this music - Please write us an email, surely you must have an opinion". La musique comme art de la dialectique, interrogeant notre rapport à elle. Que répondre à ces questions ? De toute évidence, les réponses seront plurielles. La musique est dans un tel état de désastre, que la critique est passée directement dans le médium, que les musiciens endossent les rôles de critiques et de théoriciens. Comme pour dire qu'elle avait depuis trop longtemps désertée le champ politique. L'improvisation ne se joue pas dans cet objet paradoxal, le concept politique qui soustend ce disque la tient dans un cadre fermé. Aucune séduction jouée dans ce disque, juste l'envie de provoquer la réflexion sur l'acte de jeu ou d'écoute, deux faces d'un même rapport à l'objet sonore. J'entends les rires de MATTIN et UNAMI, une bonne blague ? Un coup de pied dans le petit commerce de l'impro ? A vous d'entendre.


Touching Extremes (Italy)

The thing lasts 74 minutes, long silent segments broken by a clean guitar (by Unami) that sometimes - peculiarly - sounds like a Fender Rhodes electric piano. No noise, no explosions of rage, no screaming. Therefore don't be scared when Mattin (on voice only) appears and invites you to "turn up the volume". I won't be telling more, because no surprise should be spoiled. This is conceptual stuff, and one has to listen. That's not enough indeed, we should pay attention. Did you read the title? The listening subject is continuously invited to do that, as in a test. Other kinds of consideration are present, too, but the essence is there. Understand or not. A few guitar notes, a few sentences, silence. It's all here, and if "this is good quality music" that "deserves your concentration" (the Basque artist's not-so-subliminal message…), that will have to be determined at the end. Unami, and especially Mattin, have grown us used to this kind of exercise, and I'm one who loves to feel challenged - or plain stupid - in front of similar outings. Still, those who give up before the arrival declaring that this is rubbish are all the more stupid. The point is: why writing a review of such a CD? The answer would be: we do what we want in our own website. Even typing words about this record while playing a Ray Russell Quartet album. Massimo Ricci


Tochnit Aleph (Berlin)

Disciplined & disciplining.

Metamkine (France)

Mattin (voix) et Taku Unami (guitare). Octobre 2007. 'Attention', malgré l'instrumentation, il ne s'agit pas de chansons au coin du feu la fleur entre les dents. Mais d'ailleurs de quoi s'agit-il exactement ? Improvisation ? Provocation ? Interrogation ? Amateurs du genre (que ces deux-là se développent), vous allez jouir sévère. Dessin d'pochette de Tomoya Izumi. Une coproduction w.m.o/r et Hibari music.

                                           VITAL WEEKLY
                                           number   600
                                           week      45

MATTIN & TAKU UNAMI - ATTENTION (CD by w.m.o/r/Hibari Music)
File under 'practical jokes' this one. Taku Unami plays a guitar, but produces not many sounds throughout the entire seventy-three minutes. A note here, silence, a note there. Ok. That's one the right channel. On the left channel
there is Mattin rambling about this music, and that you should play it at the best possible installation, and asking if you are still there. 'Go Buy This CD' is also a statement, followed by lengthy silence, as all of his remarks
are one liners, statements, but hardly do make a coherent text. We all had a good laugh and then played some music. (FdW)


Mattin/Taku Unami
w.m.o/r – hibari 03

OK, then. On the one hand, we have Unami playing spare, mostly pure-toned guitar notes, doling them out one at a time in a loose, fairly desultory manner, switching later to fuzzed sounds. On the other, we have Mattin, talking. His first words, several minutes in, are “Turn up the volume.” I didn’t comply. He continues, “I said, ‘Turn up the volume!’” and then proceeds to berate me for not having a good enough stereo system. I chuckle. It becomes swiftly apparent that Mattin has been browsing the sort of fora you’re reading now, collecting the kinds of dopey arguments and discussions that ensue about equipment, listening habits, proper volume, seriousness of listening, environment, etc. and is, rather playfully but not without some sneering, tossing it back into our faces. For about 74 minutes. Goodness knows there’s a wealth of material to be thus lampooned and it’s amusing as far as it goes even if the occasional pinprick irritates by penetrating closer to the bone than one would like. Do I ever need to return to it again? Not likely (though Unami’s playing has a minimal amount of charm). But, like an elbow to the ribs, it makes its point and we can move on. One can, of course, insist on listening to it as pure sound, ignoring its intent. Not easy, but it does give the listener a malicious sense of satisfaction…

n.b. I’m not quite sure if it’s intentional or not, but the typography on the disc itself might be intended as a sly take-off on that found adorning given Lovely Music Ltd. release.

Bad Alchemy # 57 (Deutschland)

Sound Projector # 17 (UK)

Mattin and Taku Unami have collaborated to make Attention
(HIBARI MUSIC / W.M.O/R H.M.O/R 03), jointly released on
Mattin's w.m.o/r label and the Japanese player's Hibari Music label.
This is not one of the Free Software releases, but it is still Anti-
Copyright, even to the extent of having a satirical barcode hand-
drawn on the back cover in a rather sarcastic way. Like the
Skrobek release above, this one uses vast stretches of silence in
which to showcase micro-seconds of minimal music; Mattin seems
to be irresistibly drawn towards these alienating devices, which
present huge obstacles to the casual listener. He may be intent on
exposing something about the alienation of mankind under
Capitalism, but he's also risking losing the attention of his audience
on this particular throw of the dice. Taku Unami's guitar plays a few
notes in short phrases, which are drip-fed to us across the hour-
long CD. Occasionally Mattin intercedes with a vocal statement of
some sort, suggesting that we turn up the volume on this quiet and
fragmented record. How reflexive can you get? A record so post-
modern that it starts lecturing you about how you should be
listening to it. At one point he even advises the listener to work
harder so they can buy a better stereo, another one of his abrasive
Marxist gibes, with which he appears to undermine his own music,
even. I wouldn't recommend buying a better stereo just to improve
your enjoyment of this peculiar record, although the point is well
taken. Unami is an excellent fellow who has collaborated with
Rhodri Davies, and I suspect he is doing much to push forward the
cause of minimal improvisation into exciting new and undiscovered
realms. We're already way beyond the `Onkyo' tag now...


Turn up the volume …

...............and decide for yourself .....................whether or not

this....... is ..........worthy .........of your attention.

I …

.......laughed, ...........................awkwardly.

w.m.o/record label
desetxea net label