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Kouhei Matsunaga & Sean Booth & Mika Vainio: 3. telepathics meh in-sect er connection

img  Tobias Fischer

Collaborations have always been a box of chocolates. But over the past two decades, their idiosyncrasies have gradually exceeded even the wildest dreams of sonic futurologists: Freed from the necessity to perform in the same room together, artists have engaged in a slew of new modes of interaction, including anything from simple file sharing and remixing to real-time online-composition, sharing a pool of source materials (Francisco Lopez' „Sound Matter“-series), exchanging physical sound-objects (Machinefabriek and Stephen Vitiello's „Box Music“) or reciprocal processes of potentially neverending refinement (Shinkei and Mise_En_Scene's „Leftovers“). Thanks to Kouhei Matsunaga, this long list of techniques has now been extended by an alternative which makes all others seem trivial in comparison: The use of telepathy. The eternal dream of improvisers, of being able to tap directly into a partner's subconsciousness, of extracting his thoughts and adjusting one's own concepts accordingly, has it finally come true?

„3. telepathics meh in-sect er connection“ certainly doesn't sound anything like the mere blending of individual compositional traits. Even though, according to Sean Booth, that's in fact exactly what they did: On June 11th, all three artists recorded a track at the exact same time but at three different locations, afterwards simply layering the pieces on top of each other. Exercises like this may sound like little more than clever conceptualism or artsy chance operations, but they can make complete sense if the musicians share not just a similar aesthetic but a common sensibility to the musical fundamentals of time and space as well. In this case, preconditions for an excursion into the unknown could hardly have been better: As one half of Autechre, Booth has already collaborated on two albums of epic microsound galaxies with Andrew McKenzie's Hafler Trio, while Matsunaga (as part of his duo NHK) and Mika Vainio are both Raster-Noton-labelmates and purveyors of a style in which the fuzzy frays of distortion can take on near-poetic qualities. Even without knowing about the other's exact moves, one can expect these protagonists to intuit which palette to use, how much paint to apply to the canvas and which degree of abstraction or concretion to choose.

Perhaps because of the outward parallels, it would have been only natural to assume that the trio would come up with a massive, mindblowing statement fusing the extremes of Electronica into an overwhelming, all-encompassing monolith of sound. As a matter of fact, „3. telepathics meh in-sect er connection“ has turned out the exact opposite of these prophecies. There are neither beats, nor harmonies and it takes a magnifying glass to spot the occasional odd melody. In fact, these three tracks have an air of experimental installations to them, a whiff of tonal environments unfolding in real-time. As such, the album is held together by a thin, continuous, flickering sheet of grainy hiss and discrete white noise. Underneath its surface, you can hear the protagonists engaging in naive Kalimba-Klimpereien, activating cascades of de- and re-tuning chimes and extracting fine, glassy harmonic impulses from ultra-delicate toy-bells. Bubbling noises make a short appearance, as do the sound of what could be a ventilator, a glass being pinched with a fingernail, metallics being struck and various objects brought into direct contact with the microphone. There is no sense of urgency whatsoever with the music developing in perfect peace and with utmost patience. The impression is one of all actors sitting on their living room carpet still in their pyjamas, surrounded by a semi-circle of objects, which they will pick up and play at will. At intermittent points, a digital bass swell will swell up from the depths, a piercing high-frequency screech will pierce the air for a second – but other than that, the playful and concrete characteristics of the encounter prevail.

Interestingly, the different paths of thought seem to have crossed and interfered with each other in unpredictable ways. Both Vainio and Booth were happy with the overlap between their own material and Matsunaga's, but spotted incoherencies with regards to how both of their recordings merged. As a result, „3. telepathics meh in-sect er connection“ now contains two duo efforts, with the Vainio/Kouhei taking on a more tranquil, meditative, ambient quality and the Kouhei/Booth mix emphasising the physical aspects of the objects being used, as well as a shorter edit of the triad, in which conflicting passages were surgically removed or gently covered up. Because Matsunaga's contributions appear on all three tracks, while others make more fleeting, temporary appearances, there is both a sense of coherency and of asymmetry to the result, which turns the record into a strangely comforting journey. Then again, one notices similarities, simultaneities and synchronicities where there should be none, moments where the musicians, despite being thousands of miles apart, would strike upon the same idea, an identical sound or a perfectly complimentary note. Esoteric and spiritual questions aside: Perhaps there was some telepathy at work here after all?

By Tobias Fischer

Homepage: Kouhei Matsunaga
Homepage: Important Records

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