You wouldn’t really expect the strike of a marimba to be unnerving, though any instrument in the hands of the prolific Japanese multi-percussionist Masayoshi Fujita has the potential to be ingeniously warped. The composer has made his name as a master of gently layered, acoustic vibraphone compositions, yet central to his latest release is a distorted, synth-accompanied marimba.
Bird Ambience sees Masayoshi Fujita boldly terminate the neat separation he’s held between his various sonic projects. In these new compositions, Masayoshi merges his acoustic percussion, electronic dub side hustle (El Fog) and his experimental improvisation work with the likes of Jan Jelinek. What emerges is a record fused with a disconcerting tension. The opening track, ‘Bird Ambience’, begins with warm, slow-motion marimba phases. But the soothing, woody repeat is steadily underscored by clipped drum beats and a sustained low-level drone. ‘Gaia’ is Fujita’s most striking piece: jarring, atonal marimba notes are weaved with subtle operatic vocal samples from fellow Erased Tapes artist Hatis Noit, as intense distortion takes hold.
There’s a solid commitment on Bird Ambience to holding space, both for the intensity of dissonance and for a sustained tranquillity. This sometimes can feel deeply uncomfortable, but by the final two compositions, when the tension has delicately unravelled, you feel like you’re floating. It’s a hugely accomplished record.
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