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Tenniscoats: "Temporacha"

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The 6th release by Japanese duo Tenniscoats finds the avant folk minimalists playing off of the sounds of different locales around Japan—a running river, birds chirping, the urban sounds of heavy traffic and planes flying overhead. Using a field recording kit, Room40 label head and musician Lawrence English beautifully captures the band in live recordings that walk the thin boundary between composed and improvised music. The end result is an intriguing and surprisingly accessible listen that moves delicately between slow motion minimalist musings, environmental sound, quiet folk drawing from both Japanese and Western influences, and even traces of pop music.

“Ichinichi” opens Temporacha with judiciously placed acoustic guitar harmonics and chugging accordion. Spacious and delicate, the phrases move in and out of metronomic time, pausing to let in the sound of a bird or a rustling leaf. The catchy descending progression of “Ninichime,” played on electric piano and strummed guitar is drenched in the natural reverb of a tunnel. The sounds of passing traffic swell and overtake the music in waves that drown out the instruments completely. The musicians use these occasions as musical punctuation points—holding a sustained note as a deafening truck passes, then, as the engine fades away, carefully re-coalescing into song.

Temporacha’s greatest strength is the manner in which it effectively bridges the concept of “traditional” music (that played on instruments with melody, harmony, etc.) and John Cage’s philosophy that if we opt to perceive it as such, music can be found in the blowing of wind, the passing of cars—in any environmental sound. As Temporacha progresses, the listener becomes less aware of the distinction between Tenniscoats’ instrumental work and the textural backdrop of the varying environments so that the end result is much more than a field recording experiment, but rather accessible and mesmerizing music. In “Timeless,” sustained woodwind notes, pointillistic occurrences of wordless vocals, and mallet percussion are punctuated by the sounds of running water. “Do” is a duet between a fragmented and child-like female vocal and rocks thrown into a river. “Sitting By” marries uplifting fingerpicked guitar arpeggios with indecipherable percussive sounds that move in and out of the rhythm of the melody.

Temporacha closes with Hajimari/Owari-Dream is Refreshing,” the album’s strongest and most melodic track. Layering Sigur Ros-like vocals over sustained organ, hammered guitar harmonics, and the chirping of birds, the composition is a perfect synthesis of environmental sound and traditional song. Bringing together the elements introduced over the course of the album, the piece is a fitting finale for an album that seamlessly ties together the sounds of East and West, music as recognizable song on recognizable instruments and music as the sound of the world around us.

By Hannis Brown

Homepage: Tenniscoats
Homepage: Room40

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