w.m.o/r 09 : Taku Sugimoto, Yasuo Totsuka & Mattin. Recorded live at Enban, Tokyo. 3th Feb. 2004.  


Improvised Music from Japan

A trip performance by Mattin, Sugimoto (guitar), and Totsuka (electronics) was recorded at the record shop Enban, near Koenji Station, Tokyo, during Mattin's Japan tour. The first several minutes were filled
with noises from trains and the audience. Then were high-frequency noises with complex overtone structures, namely the rotation noise of the laptop fan; and an electronic sound like the noises made by crawling insects. The electronic sound, which went outside the audible range, mondulated the fan noises. This kind of performance of performance is specific to Totsuka, who used to modulate environmental sounds in live performances. These effects were combined with electronic sounds within the audible range, which corresponds to a high-frequency variant of the continuous transformation between low-frequency oscillating tones and pulses presented by Stockhausen in "Kontakte." Whne The fan noises were about to fade away, the sounded quite lyrical. Then train noises came back in, and Sugimoto subtly responded with single dry notes. In summary this recording opened a new chapter in quiet improvisation by introducing environmental sounds as essential elements.

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More and more Mattin goes all the way for real CDs of his improvising
duets with well-known people. Here he teams up with guitar player
Taku Sugimoto and Yasuo Totsuka, who plays mixer. Quite a recent
recording (from February 3rd 2004) of the softer edges of music.
Sometimes we nothing for a quite a while, and then sounds burst out:
an occassional tick here, some static hiss there and every once in a
while a train passing (I still haven't figured out wether that last
thing is something that has to do with the recording (maybe made
under a railway arch) or is a mixed in fieldrecording. Beneath all
that there is hiss and crackles, actually a lot of those hoover about
in the unterwelt of this recording. Sugimoto's guitar playing is
really really loud - expect of course that he only plays on just very
few occassions. But once he does the sound bursts out. Most
definetely one of the stranger works of improvised music I heard in
some time. Very quiet throughout, carefully played tones but with
alienated outbursts (train sounds, guitar). Great redefenition of
ambient music. (FdW)

 Paris Transatlanctic (July 2004)

If Building Excess was a shrewd choice of album title, Training Thoughts is nothing short of a stroke of genius. Taken from a live set recorded at Emban in Tokyo in February this year (actually the disc says "3.2.2004" which I suppose could mean March 2nd, as the Japanese tend to write the date the American way month first, and since 9/11 nobody makes the difference anyway and it's about time I closed the brackets on this one), this 66 minute set features Mattin in the company of Yasuo Totsuka (computer) and the reigning High Priest Of Less Is More, Taku Sugimoto on guitar. A glance at the album cover - three empty seats in a Tokyo suburban train -and the sporadic appearance throughout the set of distant ghostly trains rattling along in the night (real or sampled? Mattin's giving no clues) reveals one possible interpretation of the album title, but "training" can also be a verb, and therefore describes how we are supposed to listen to this music as much as it does the music itself. As is often the case, alarmingly so in terms of my own sleep-depriving listening habits, I appreciated this one best on headphones at 4am, the sound of faraway trains shunting me in and out of consciousness. You don't have to have read Freud to appreciate the power and imagery evoked by the sound of trains - from Stalker to Spirited Away, the train has long since replaced the old ferryboat as the best way to get across the Styx. Had it been the sound of a departing bus or a plane taking off, the poetry of the experience would be lost (as it is, the sound of one or two passing cars sneaks in and rather spoils the effect of Sugimoto's first discernible note at 22'13", and there's a rather disturbing guffaw about fifteen minutes after that). Mattin is on his best behaviour throughout - just one of Gora's almighty feedback screeches here would derail the train of thought altogether - and the tension is maintained throughout, to superb effect. Listening to this one again back to back with Building Excess makes the difference between the two albums all the clearer - what Malfatti's music since the mid 1990s has revealed, namely that silence is a powerful tool, capable of defining structure and creating tension, is evident throughout Training Thoughts, but conspicuous in its (near) absence on Building Excess. Listening to the Viennese quartet, the mind is apt to wander (maybe no bad thing: "if your mind wanders, let it" - Cage), which Training Thoughts does not allow it to do.
While Malfatti and Sugimoto have long since staked out their territory in new music, Mattin is still able to look both ways - as I wrote elsewhere, Gora namechecks Whitehouse and Malfatti. Which is not to say he hasn't found his own voice; I'd argue instead he's found not one but several distinctive voices, all of which are in evidence on these three releases. If you peruse these Web pages with a view to planning the forthcoming weekend's shopping (I'm flattered), you'll have to forgive me for not making any specific recommendations. Each of these three releases is accomplished and thought provoking, and well worth spending time with, at any hour of the day or night.—DW

Revue & Corrigée (France)

Plus radical encore dans ce qu’il confronte l’auditeur à l’absence : le trio avec Taku SUGIMOTO et Yasuo TOTSUKA. Combien de notes aligne SUGIMOTO sur sa guitare ? 2 ou 3, peut-être 1 seule, je ne suis même pas sûr de ne pas l’avoir rêvé, pour le reste quelques frémissements électrostatiques furtifs, une rumeur de trains qui passent dans un hors champ et de longues plages silencieuses, l’espace sonore laissé vide ou presque. Quelques lignes estompées dessinées dans l’arrière plan par les computers de TOTSUKA et MATTIN. Rien d’autre que ce que nous sommes capables d’entendre dans ce blanc. Il faut tendre l’oreille, la gymnastique est inconfortable, la poésie du vide est à ce prix. Non il n’y a ni pose ni dandysme là-dedans, juste un choix de s’intéresser à cette matière riche comme peu d’autres le sont : le silence et son inquiétante étrangeté. Michel Henritzi


Touching Extremes (Italy)

TAKU SUGIMOTO/YASUO TOTSUKA/MATTIN - Training thoughts (w.m.o/r)
The moan of a subway train is all you get for the first moments of the record; its rolling faraway rumble mixes perfectly with the distant echoes of life coming from outside. Infinite whispers of almost total silence are rarely interrupted by single Sugimoto notes or by some electric hiss, while the above mentioned trains keep passing along with their memories. Barely audible feedback, changing according my head's posture, tests my ears. Looks like when you enter someone's room while he's sleeping: the musicians are there, walking silently on their tiptoes; you can perceive their slow gestures, their will to preserve the frame of standstillness in which they operate. Massimo Ricci

1000+1tilt (Athens)

I put this in the cd player in my room and sat in the living room. after a while my housemate asks "why don't you put some music?" i reply that i did. we eat and smoke, suddenly there is a sound. here we go, i thought. but then again silence making this sound almost an accident. after half an hour you start to think about maybe a situation of extreme embarassment maybe a result of the friction between different cultures, when 3 musicians are seated together but none dares to really play something fearing he will insult the others. there was some promising rumbles towards the end though but these also proved a false alarm after 65 minutes and an enjoyable meal the cd just ended. we had to theorise on the unecological habbit of wasting precious recording space when so many poor musicians can even print a 3" cd.
BUT, i am not one to give up easily. next day here i go again. this time in my room with the volume full open. The situation is better as once in a while you can distinguish some sounds and frequencies but one is usually aware is the absence of them. i have no idea how this would feel on a live performance, maybe it would be really nice and thought provoking , but as Korzybski once stated the map is not the territory and a live recording is not the live, so a cd should be able to stand on its own.I am listening to this once again as i write these lines and the only thing i listen is some nice rhythms but it's throbbing gristle from my housemate's room. so..