By Ben Westhoff and Sarah Purkrabek
By Steve Brennan
By Joseph Hess
By Allsion Babka
By Kelsey McClure
By RFT Music
By Christian Schaeffer
By Gabriel San Roman
Twenty years ago, when gullible tech heads were lapping up the latest improvement in sound reproduction, the compact disc, and tossing all those skip-and-pop-prone LPs into the Dumpster, little could they foresee the consequences, and 19.75 years ago, when the supposedly indestructible compact disc first started skipping and the lunkheads realized they'd been duped with an inferior, treble-heavy product, little could they know that, two decades later, curious types would be harnessing these same sounds -- the sound of defect -- to create music.
Unlike the function-over-form digital tomfoolery of Oval -- who've made, in essence, the same record over and over for the past five years -- Japan's Nobukazu Takemura harnesses digital tidbits in a non-willy-nilly way by lining up little synthetic pearls in a neat row and stringing them together to make melody (the transcendent "Sign") or by tossing them into the air and creating something less defined (the 17-minute centerpiece of Hoshi No Koe, "A Chrysalis"). The result is music that dabbles at the outer fringes of digital-audio experimentation without sacrificing structure and melody -- except in those cases where this is the clear intent. At these moments, where the listener is barraged with digital detritus arriving in clicks, spurts and washes of 1's and 0's, Takemura's music sounds like a synthetic version of free-improv guitarist Derek Bailey: chirps and blurts that combine to create something nearly otherworldly.
But the experimentation on Hoshi shows only part of the picture; on any Nobukazu Takemura (he's also known as Child's View) work, you can expect a certain amount of acoustic splendor. With a background in jazz and nearly too-smooth acid jazz, Takemura, who plays all the instruments, uses as source material clarinets, bells, cellos and xylophones; chops them all up (or, in some cases, leaves them alone); and creates organic human music.
Here's what you'll get in Hoshi: a beautiful listening experience, one that wanders from beat-based bliss to synthetic-shard experimentation to pure, naïve soundscapes that offer aural beauty without comment or context (one of which, "Stairs in Stars," sounds like an outtake from Raymond Scott's landmark Soothing Sounds for Baby series from the early '60s). You'll get a 77-minute disc that moves from pillow talk to caffeine jitter and back again, all created by a soul so obviously subservient to sound and its effect on the eardrum that he's willing to swallow his ego for the sake of a pretty tone or a two-note melody. You'll get, quite simply, pure, blissful enchantment, a kind that sounds both utterly alien and totally comfortable, the kind that, two decades ago, would have sounded like future music. Now that we're here, it sounds perfect.