July 24, 2009

Ippei Matsui & Aki Tsuyuko - Natsu No Zenbu (2008, Lekoodo)

Aki Tsuyuko is a Japanese artist who first caught my attention with her '99 "Ongakushitsu" album on Nobukazu Takemura's Childisc label, as well as appearances on several of Takemura's albums and tours. "Ongakushitsu" is an abstract, instrumental ambient record with a very unique sound. Tsuyuko improvises graceful, child-like and slightly bizarre melodic patterns using relatively lo-fi-sounding, simple synthesizer tones. The vibe is relaxing and poetic, but with a distinctly other-worldy essence. When I wrote a label profile of Childisc and Moonlit, Aki Tsuyuko's website had recently gone offline. A few months earlier, there had been an update announcing the release of a new hand-made CDr release entitled "Natsu No Zenbu", released via a label called Lekoodo. I ordered the CD for 1350yen, shipping included to the USA. The album features 27 tracks, adding up to nearly 72 minutes, and comes in a nice plastic sleeve with paper inserts and colorful labels. The tracks heavily feature Tsuyuko's multi-layered solos, with many of the pieces returning to similar motifs, including gentle piano melodies, playful synthesizer and hi-pitched sinewave sequences, field recordings of trains and apartment noises, and strange lo-fi sampler experiments and spoken word/vocal improvisations. Vocals, guitar treatments and other effects are provided by Ippei Matsui, who has released CDs in Japan under the name Teasi. He also collaborated with Tsuyuko in '06 at a Tokyo art installation called "Namae Ga Nai", recordings of which can be heard on Matsui's myspace page. They are also joined by Yasushi Yoshida from Japanese group Suspiria, providing strange vocalisations, cassettes and toy bells on four songs. While some of the spoken word passages, totally in Japanese, left me a bit disoriented, the album as a whole is a very pleasant, mysterious listen and continues further explorations of the sound of Tsuyuko's previous album "Hokane" from '06. Incidentally, "Ongakushitsu" is still available domestically on reasonably-priced 2LP, via Drag City's Moikai sub-label, pick up both! (In case you can't figure out the Japanese, you can order "Natsu No Zenbu" by emailing lekoodo@hotmail.co.jp.)