Saturday, January 8, 2011

Oirtrio (Frank Gratkowski, Sebastian Gramms, Tatsuya Nakatani) - Kanata [Not Two]


Frank Gratkowski - alto saxophone, clarinets
Sebastian Gramms - double bass, bows
Tatsuya Nakatani - percussion, bowed gongs

Not Two 2010

(yet another review rewritten  for You in english, to justify the presence of the cd in subject on my 2010 favourites list (originally written in polish on This was the first written text after a long pause so I think the english version is now much better then the original one. I promise that next review will be posted soon and will  a fresh one)

"Kanata" is a cd that offers a handfull of challenges/surprises. Firstly, of a philological nature. If I managed to guess it right (thanks to aunt wikipedia and uncle google) the name of the group comes from spanish 'oir' which "means "to listen" (and it's a big "If" since the graphics and the track titles point towards japanese, the title of the cd - "Kanata" means in japanese "far away" or "beyond"). You can have fun with trying to find the meaning of track titles, I was lucky only in some cases.

Than you have the instrumental line-up. It seems to be a typical, free jazz pianoless trio with sax (clarinet) - bass - drums. But it's deceiving - where else have You seen a similar description - Sebastian Gramms plays double bass and bows (quite unusal naming 'bow' an instrument) and Tatsuya Nakatani percussion and bowed gongs which is also more specific that your usual 'drums'.

And finally, the sounds You can hear. Music (as generic and of little precision a term it is) on this cd was recorded live, divided into 7 tracks but in fact there are only 2 improvisations, first one, around 35 mins, spanning tracks 1 to 5 and the second, tracks 6 and 7, about 10 and something mins. And by the begining of the second track You can put aside all those notions about music like melody, harmony, rhythm, phrase, note. While all those appear, none of them is what You expect it to be. You have to just listen ('oir') to the activity of the sounds and let Yourself go.

You will hear whispers, clicks, bangs, cries, singings of birds and stomps of little feet, all kind of sounds. Forget about what You know about music, even the one of free improv kind, this one manages to create a world that is unique and that have little to do with whatever music might have been played before or after. Impressive task on its own, but, while the sounds are going and coming from all directions, the sense of unity, of focus is immense and makes it not only a curiosity or musical experiment but a piece of real, if unreal, beauty.

This is a sonic adventure, music from other world, from the outside, from far beyond ("kanata" indeed). It's like listening to great poetry in the language You don't understand, where You can recognize some structures, phrases, sounds reappearing in order, rhymes and rhythms, but You still have no idea what does it say. The instruments loose their characteristics sound (it really is sometimes to tell which sound is coming from which player), everything goes into micro scale and You have to find a magnifying glass to see those microtonalities, microstructures, micromelodies.  No sense in analyzing the tracks or the playing (although it's hard no to think about what kind of metallic objects is Tatsuya moving on the drumhead, I don't think he's ever concerned really with something as trivial as playing rhythm on drums).

You will need a lot of focus, You will need to clear Your mind (the drones of bowed gongs help a lot). And You will be taken into another world. And while it won't be anything like the world You know, it is quite amazing.

ps1. Hard not to notice the amazing sound quality, You can hear each physical aspect of this metaphysical playing, objects moving on plastic, metal, wood or through the thin air, strings being plucked, keys tapped, fingers moving. Like a magnifying glass indeed.

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