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CD Feature/ Maju: "Maju-5"

img  Tobias

In music, the term “experimental” need not necessarily refer to an uncomfortable or wayward outward appearance. In fact, as Japanese duo Sakana Hosomi and Masaki Narita prove on their (you guessed it) fifth album for Australian label Extreme, its main purpose of equipping listeners with perceptional techniques and sharpening their senses for the world in no way contradicts aesthetic aspects of harmony and balance: There is nothing garish, disproportionate or circuitous about “Maju-5” and yet, the closer one hones in, its meditative capillary structures start distilling unexpected meaning.

It is the undeniable underlying desire to extend beyond the merely pleasing which sets Hosomi and Narita apart from the fold. Most Soundscape- and Drone-related releases over the past few years, after all, have displayed a notable lack of ambition in terms of truly taking listeners beyond the ordinary either on a conceptual basis or simply in terms of “the ride”. While there is nothing wrong per se with creating soothing sounds and smooth textures, there seemed to be a rampant misunderstanding with regards to the basics of the genre: For music to be “Ambient” in the original meaning of the word - for its audience to be able to interact with it - it needs to create a degree of estrangement and friction to stimulate a palpable psycho-physical reaction.

As if this were their sole goal, opening track “line” kicks off proceedings with a static streak of glassy undulation and surreal, almost imperceptible pit-pattering rhythmical clicks. This sharp wave peacefully expands and deflates, its function and structure remaining immobile, before another discreet transition occurs, with the bass spectrum noticeably intensifying and electric currents buzzing in the distance. After having attained a state of rich resonance by now, the drone begins pulsating from within, picking up pace as tweeterings and chirpings, pearly feminine overtones and traces of melodic residue are gradually filling in the last blanks, steering the piece encouragingly to a developmental acme and from thence towards a soft, long fade-out.

While essentially a linearly built track of dreamy sonic bliss, “line” makes use of the janusheaded duopol of bewilderment and comfort: Only a positively confounding experience can lead listeners to new shores, while a sense of initial recognition is required to carefully draw them in. Maju create an illusion of spatial depth by contrasting their sustained sympathetic atmospheres with quirky alien effects and in-vitro forces of nature, such as winds of wah-wah, but they do so on the basis of purely “musical” means, avoiding the much more straightforward method of including field recordings. Their layers of subtle effects are never at the fore, symbiotically supplementing the evolution of harmonic, timbral or textural factors instead. The result is both three-dimensional and seamless and free from any kind of concrete references which could disturb full immersion.

This seductively twitching surface is the ideal basis for a pensive study on various aspects of change. For even though the compositions on “Maju-5” appear to be all but marking time, they are, on the contrary, all soaked in constant movement. If “line” chose a path of incremental blossoming, “meguro” descends from the peak over on the other side of the mountain, gradually decomposing into a silent hum over the course of nine welcomingly beckoning minutes. On “reCAPTCHA”, the cinematic heartpiece of the album, harmonic impurities romantically infiltrate an otherwhise perfectly still and infinite sonic plane and “fbk2” is gradually taken over by the microscopic elements mushrooming at its periphery.

Even though the album progresses gently and without ever rupturing its fragile flow, no two tracks sound the same here and every piece has new insights on offer. Change, according to Hosomi and Narita, is the most pervasive force of all, even in those distinct places which seem to have liberated themselves from it. But it is inherently connected to our own perception. While by no means aggressively “experimental” on the outside, therefore, their latest album will sharpen the senses of all those who are daring enough to explore its unexpected meanings.

By Tobias Fischer

Homepage: Maju
Homepage: Extreme Records

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