Sunday, March 29, 2009

Tenniscoats - Temporacha (Room40 CD)

Just published at Brainwashed:

Consisting of only seven spare pieces lasting just over 25 minutes in length, Tenniscoats find themselves having to make a lot out of a little on this disc. That the duo of Saya and Ueno are displaced from their Tokyo home base and immersed in the Amazon rainforest for a series of essentially live recordings seems as though it would leave even less room for error. Yet this distillation results in a poignant intimacy that seeks and finds its own niche in the realm of location-based music interactions.

Most clearly on display here is Tenniscoats' clever and cautious instrumentation, which unfolds the airy and peaceful qualities extrapolated on. "Ichinichi" presents each guitar strum or harmonica breath as its own statement whose presence is in constant contact with the chirping birds surrounding them. The result is an odd musical space that hovers somewhere between the gentle textures of musique concrete and the spatial awareness of Japanese gagaku.

Yet the music is not without motion. Instead of just attempting to interact with their environments throughout here, often it sounds as though they've worked out small scale pop tunes which they must try and fit in between the sounds of their surroundings. "Ninichime" sees a guitar and small organ interacting by a roadside. As the small lines interact in a near tropical breeze, the trucks nearby drift by like waves on a shore. It's a nifty effect, and one that avoids the potentially pallid results it could attain with the strength and conception of the material.

This is crucial, as not all bands could pull this out without it sinking into some sort of folky "live in the forest of life" schlock. But these guys pull it off and then some, and there is a sincerity to these works and their performances that keeps the entire length afloat with small surprises. Special mention on this front must be made of co-conspirator Lawrence English, who recorded and produced the album. His delicate balance of cavernous water dripping among light pattering rhythms and lulling pipes on "Timeless" never lets any sound source take hold on any other.

The following "Do" exhibits Saya's vocal prowess with small, syllabic motives among drifting water, while "Sitting By" features a finger-picked guitar line and clacking pulses among forest birds; the result is one of the most cohesive, poppy pieces here, as Ueno's guitar provides a near soundtrack to the picturesque setting it implies, pushing it to the background before English once more fades it in to let the work slip back towards the wood.

"Hajimari / Owari - Dream Is Refreshing" closes the disc with what is likely the least environmental work here. Rather, the duo's full sound drifts outward as small organ lines, guitar tappings and Saya's lilting vocals draw themselves along with unending beauty. When the organ goes dark and Saya recites spoken words, her voice, like the bird calls around her, speak volumes whether translatable or not.

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