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Colbets: Transistor Rainy

img  Tobias Fischer

In a society which, despite its persistent claims to the contrary, still fosters a love for "supersizing", bigger works of art are naturally associated with bigger ambitions, bigger meanings and, ultimately, bigger emotions. It is a perception strikingly at odds with daily life, where it is precisely the tiniest of gestures, seemingly most irrelevant words and most fleeting looks or touches which usually leave the deepest cuts and most memorable impressions. It was most likely to the latter that Kari Takemoto of Colbets, once alluded when he, in an interview with the arenacast blog, claimed that there was absolutely "no meaning" to his music, and that his philosophy relied foremost on his "eye for the beautiful". He wasn't trying to downplay his talents or the impact of his art. Both to Takemoto and his congenial creative partner Saitoh Tomohiro, graceful proportions, elegance and balance are never just aesthetics, but goals in their own right, providing direction and guiding their compositional decisions. To them, it is not the role of the artist to inject and clutter a piece with intellectual complexity, widescreen cinematics or bigger-than-life feelings. Rather, it consists in triggering them inside the listener by means of subtle association, aural metaphors and synaesthesia: In a way, Transistor Rainy is like an elusive perfume subconsciously stirring one's synapses into releasing a flood of mnemonic images, memorable sentiments and sentimental memories.

Which also means that it may strike the casual observer as deceptively simple music. Takemoto's guitar pickings are evoking the atmosphere of pastoral life in the countryside while Tomohiro's electronic brushstrokes are glowing with the timbres of jazz, idm and quirky futurism; underneath a kaleidoscope of melodic particles and softly shifting harmony, a howling noise may sometimes add a slightly more mysterious tone, yet, it is less like the sound one would hear at the entrance to a dark and threatening cave and more like holding a  beautiful conch to one's ear; lush strings are painting skies filled with ambient clouds onto a canvas gently pierced by sounds so fluffy, frail and flimsy that you hardly notice they're there at first - still, one can rest assured that each note has been placed with utmost precision and intent. In a cosmos so entirely absorbed by delicacy, dreaminess and fluency, the use of drum machines, rolling and rattling either with perplexing plainness or poignant irregularity, may seem surprising. And yet, they provide for an all-important rhythmical foundation for the artists to restrict their otherwise freely-floating compositions, occasionally consisting of little more than a few repeated tones and chord changes, to the very essence.

It is a music without the typical ups and downs, without demonstrative buildups, climaxes and developments. The first few seconds of closer "Monolith", for example, already contain within their two triads, hypnotically running through the track like a rosary, the musical material for the entire piece. And yet, there is something intriguing happening in every single second, with the same themes delicately supported by new colours, motivic counterpoints and sparkling sound effects bubbling and percolating through the sensitive musical substratum. The combination of, on the one hand, stubbornly linear motorics and stoically unchanging movements and, on the other, sheer delight in sound play, transformation and aural illusion, owes to the fact that despite the synthesizers, plugins and effect pedals, Transistor Rainy is still at heart the result of two musicians directly interacting with each other in an entirely unaffected and sympathetically direct way. It is also the result of a great deal of mutual respect: Astoundingly, Tomohiro's work under the banner of Shreber Harber Mole Flying Wheel or Takemoto's solo guitar oeuvre have remained clearly recognisable in colbets to the point that it sometimes seems as though one were listening to two solo albums layered on top of and running in sync with each other, the two spheres of creativity complementing each other so perfectly that there is no need for any kind of pre-determined organisation or planning.

Despite this complementary character, however, Transistor Rainy by no means delineates a mere comfort zone. Seven-minute centerpiece "It Is Beautiful Of The Headlights" initially appear to be working with the recognisable tool kit, Takemoto gradually adorning a broken chord with  additional delayed guitar notes and extending it into an endless melody, while Tomohiro weaves a carpet made of golden organ resonances. Then, however, in the middle of the sequence, the guitar opts out, remaining silent for almost two full minutes, leaving the remaining elements to float like driftwood, almost as though the Takemoto were contemplating his next move. And indeed, when he returns, he seems more determined than ever, now suddenly adding rhythmical arpeggios in a self-forgotten trance, no longer playing in a duo, but for himself. The change in direction turns the piece's effect upside down, peeling off a previously invisible layer of psychedelics from its formerly smooth ambient surface. In moments like these, the texture of what may appear quite conventional and mundane is ripped apart, opening up the listener's "eye for beauty" to a world of wondrous meanings.

It is in these moments, too, that Transistor Rainy refutes the rationale of supersizing: Small as it may be or seem, it size is never an impediment for creating big emotions.

By Tobias Fischer

Homepage: Saitoh Tomohiro / Colbets
Homepage: Kari Takemoto
Homepage: TwistedTreeLine Recordings

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