052: Senyawa

An interview with Senyawa + our writers panel on Music From Memory's 'Heisei No Oto' compilation and Fred Frith & Ikue Mori's 'A Mountain Doesn't Know It's Tall'

Senyawa

Senyawa are an Indonesian duo made up of Wukir Suryadi (homemade instruments) and Rully Shabara (vocals). The two met at a music festival in 2010 and shortly thereafter recorded their debut self-titled EP. In the decade since, they’ve collaborated and performed with a slew of artists including Keiji Haino, Melt-Banana, and Stephen O'Malley. Their newest album, Alkisah, finds the duo honing their craft of blending traditional and contemporary music and is being released by 44 different record labels from around the world. Joshua Minsoo Kim talked with Senyawa on February 12th, 2021 to discuss Alkisah, the geopolitical implications of the album’s release strategy, how they’ve both grown while in this duo, and more

Joshua Minsoo Kim: Hello! How are you?

Rully Shabara: Hi! I’m good.

Wukir Suryadi: Hello! How are you?

It’s 11PM, so I’m a little tired. I was just in another Zoom call for the past four hours, but it’s all good. You know, I wanted to start off by asking: What’s something right now that’s bringing you two joy?

Rully Shabara: For me it’s creating music in a more innovative way, which has to happen because we’re in a pandemic. We’re both musicians, and this is what we do, and I just want to keep making more music in more innovative ways. And we’re doing it to survive; if I don’t do it, I don’t know what else I’d do.

Wukir Suryadi: It’s the same for me too. Music is the only bullet we have.

Bullet against what?

Wukir Suryadi: We need music for our life and in this struggle. We need to do something because we need food. We’re not just two people, actually. There are many people behind the scenes. And we’re always thinking about how to work with people who have the same vision as us.

Rully Shabara: Bullet is a good word. You need bullets for fights, so we make music to have as many bullets as we can.

This doesn’t have to be a person, but would you say that you have an enemy, then, that you’re using these bullets against?

Rully Shabara: The idea is that as musicians, we want to have something that can hit you. We don’t want it to be just another piece of music or just another piece of art—it has to have an impact.

Wukir Suryadi: This co-releasing method that we have [Editor’s note: Senyawa have released their new album Alkisah on 44 labels from around the world] is not about survival of the fittest. It’s survival of those who share. If we only care about people who can adapt and survive, what about the people who can’t? It’s all about sharing. The more we can share, the more we survive—more people will survive.

It’s about the community.

Rully Shabara: Yeah.

Wukir Suryadi: You don’t want it to be too big, though. Don’t try and change the world—it’s more about who’s closest to you.

Who is the community that you have, that you feel close to and want to support?

Rully Shabara: Any collective that has their own vision or style or idea. Even if we don’t agree with them, it doesn’t matter, because that’s not the point. Everyone has their own character, and that’s good, no? The more individual ideas, the better.

Did you two have close families growing up?

Rully Shabara: Yes, but from an early age we were already living alone. I’m from outside of Java on Sulawesi island and Wukir is from East Java.

How old were you two when you lived on your own?

Rully Shabara: I was 15 when I moved to Java on my own, and I’m 38 now.

Wukir Suryadi: I left my house when I was 12. Now I’m 43.

Do you mind sharing about your experiences from back then?

Rully Shabara: The language was different—I didn’t know the Javanese language. So everybody spoke a language that I didn’t understand, and the culture was different too. It was a shock. I was only a teenager, so it felt really different. The way they joke, I didn’t understand it and I didn’t like it—I didn’t find it funny! Everybody would be laughing while I wasn’t (laughter). I think that memory represents what it was like to be in this new culture. And it wasn’t their fault I didn’t understand, it was mine; I was there, so I should try to understand more of the culture.

Once I learned the Javanese language, it took me to a different place. Since then, all my explorations and studies and works have been about exploring language in this nontraditional sense—through sound. And it’s a resource that everybody has. It’s personal and it’s powerful.

Wukir Suryadi: Have you been to Indonesia?

I have not, no.

Wukir Suryadi: Every territory has their own language. I’m from East Java, but if I go to Bandung [in West Java], there’s already a different language. It’s different if you live in the mountains or in the city—it’s different everywhere. I like connecting with all of these people because they all have their own character, so that’s why I moved around a lot. And if you wanted to learn about art, like I did, you went to Jakarta. You can learn to become anybody in Jakarta.

How did you two first meet?

Rully Shabara: We met on stage at the Yes No Klub in Yogyakarta for a regular, independent music event here. Wok the Rock [who runs Yes No Wave Music] invited us and we improvised on stage together. This was in 2010, and then four days after that we decided to record the EP that’s on Yes No Wave.

I love that it happened right away. I’m wondering, what do you two feel like you bring individually to Senyawa?

Rully Shabara: Back then, when I saw Wukir playing his masterpiece instrument, called the bambu wukir, I thought it had everything. It has the melodies, the harmonies, the percussion—all of the sounds are there. But from my perspective, what was missing was the human element, the voice, the body that can match the frequencies of the instrument.

When we first started with that EP, I wasn’t sure that my voice could match this instrument because it’s so rich. I only have one voice, you know? I played drums on one song, but soon after that I realized, “Why should I use another instrument?” The only thing that was missing was a voice, so I used this collaboration as an opportunity to explore my voice. In Senyawa I have all this space, and I can explore it all however I want.

Wukir Suryadi: When Rully uses his voice, it stimulates me to keep exploring. And then I want to push Rully’s voice to go to places he didn’t know he could—it becomes a way to explore myself, and for Rully to explore himself.

If you think about the first EP and then the new album, how do you feel like you two have grown in the past eleven years? Were there any albums that you two felt saw you guys really pushing each other to a new level?

Rully Shabara: We’re always really careful when we release a new album. We have five albums but between them we always have a single or a collaboration or some kind of project, but we always want to make sure each album is a progression from the previous one, in theme and in instrumentation and in our exploration. There’s always progression. We think about everything really carefully. The title of each album represents our journey.

Our last album Sujud was when things formed a loop. Alkisah is a new chapter. In order to see how we progressed, we released an album at the beginning of 2020 called Rehearsal Session. That album contains old songs and new songs in order to compare. You can see how different it is.

You said the titles of each album showed the progression—can you go through those?

Rully Shabara: For the first EP, we weren’t Senyawa yet. It was “Rully Shabara and Wukir Suryadi.” The title was Senyawa, and we didn’t intend it to be a full-time band, but it took off. We became Senyawa because one of our tours in Australia had that as our name on a poster and we said, “Okay, that’s our name.” Acaraki, our first album, means the science of mixing herbs. People could see that and understand, “Ah, alright, these are two guys trying to find the right formula.

The next one, Menjadi, means transforming, or to become. It’s not there yet, though, it’s still in the process. And then Puncak means peak. You listen to the album and it’s a full-on, 100% improvisation—no prepared lyrics or instruments. We just went to a studio and recorded on one channel with no mixing. That’s the summit. It’s pure. After that is Sujud. Where do you go after the summit? You go down. Sujud refers to the act of prostration. The theme is about soil and land and earth—spirituality and humility. The last song of “Sujud” is called “Kembali Ke Dunia,” which means “Return to the World.” And now we have Alkisah, which means that when we return to the world, alkisah is what we experience, which means “once upon a time.”

How much of your music is fully improvised versus composed?

Rully Shabara: Sometimes 50/50, sometimes more improvised—sometimes even the text is improvised—but improvisation is our method, especially with our in-between albums when we collaborate with someone. That’s when we get new inputs and fresh insight from other musicians. You need that—you need to collaborate with others. Improvisation is important because it can bring out a potential that we didn’t even know we had. We can hear somebody’s input and then we can do something that we’ve never tried before, and then that can become a new skill.

When was the last time that you were surprised by the potential that you two had when improvising?

Rully Shabara: The one I remember most is when we played with Keiji Haino in Canada. We had played with him a few times, but this time I decided to improvise with my text. I came up with a story in my head but I didn’t prepare any words, so along the way I just kept telling this story and I had never done that before. Normally I prepare lyrics and then improvise a bit, but I’ve never improvised a whole story.

Wukir Suryadi: Keiji Haino of course but there’s also Uchihashi Kazuhisa. He always plays sounds that I don’t know how to wrap my head around.

Rully Shabara: We’ve had many collaborations with him.

Wukir Suryadi: And then there’s Jerome Cooper, Robert Lowe, and Stephen O’Malley.

Rully Shabara: O’Malley introduced us to all that loud distortion, and before Sujud, Senyawa never really explored that. Sujud’s distortion is partially influenced by Stephen O’Malley. That collaboration was difficult for me because I had to figure out how to work with these two giant sounds—I was just in the middle of it and I only had my voice and reverb. That pushed me.

Wukir Suryadi: Woody Jackson too, who did the Red Dead Redemption soundtrack. That was new for us too. Trevor Dunn from Mr. Bungle also had an interesting way of playing the bass.

I admire how much you two like collaboration, and I like how you both understand you can learn a lot from it. Are you two both like that in your everyday life outside of music? Do you try to spend a lot of time with other people?

Rully Shabara: Yes, of course. Senyawa is just Wukir and myself, but we have people around us who support us. We’re open for collaborative work. Like, at the moment, we’re working with a friend who made us Senyawa signature effects pedals. We’re in the process of working with local people who make yogurt. We also have Senyawa tobacco and Senyawa sambal chili sauce (laughter).

Oh wow. What sort of things are you guys into aside from music? Do you have other hobbies?

Rully Shabara: I love movies. But it’s always changing.

Wukir Suryadi: I like boxing and MMA. Football.

Rully Shabara: But it’s been difficult during the pandemic. We’re just focusing on what we need to do now. We have to focus on survival, and our way to survive is music. 2020 marked the beginning of Senyawa’s second decade, and we had so many plans for the next ten years. We had everything laid out, but then the pandemic came and we couldn’t tour anymore so we had to think about how to get these projects going. We then came up with the strategy for our album release when we recorded the album. We wanted to have a radical strategy that wouldn’t just impact us, but everyone who had the same vision as us.

Wukir Suryadi: I can’t stay still. It’s not human for me to be like that. It’s meaningless if I do nothing.

I’m the same way (laughter). I always have to be doing something.

Rully Shabara: And people will see that you’re busy and will say, “Where’s the money?” Because what we do normally doesn’t make money. But we need to have a vision, and bit-by-bit, we’re doing things that add to our skill or improve our knowledge of something. There’s a path that we have but there are many, many things to do. But that makes you look busy all the time (laughter).

It’s fun to keep learning and doing things.

Rully Shabara: Right.

I wanted to talk about the album release strategy. Can you talk about that more in depth?

Wukir Suryadi: The labels always asked the same question (laughter).

Rully Shabara: We just made an open call. We don’t want to tell somebody how to do something. We just put it out there and saw who responded, and there were even more but we didn’t agree to be with everyone. The idea isn’t to just be on a lot of labels; we wanted to experiment and see what would happen if we took our hands off everything, if we let go of control.

What would happen if an artist let go of control of their own work? If anybody could get their hands on it? We’ll see. We’re in the middle of it right now. We have over 200 remixes, and once it’s released, the public will get their hands on it as well. 44 labels are busy and active, collaborating with their local artists. And we don’t have the control! These labels are free to design it and work with their own concepts and to have their own remixes. They have the opportunity to put their own vision into this work, and we support that and we support each other.

It’s a very simple idea but it’s very effective in terms of building connections, of decentralizing power, and for making the music easily accessible. For marketing purposes too—people were asking about a second single. And I was like, “Why do we need a second single? It’s everywhere!” (laughter). If you want to release a single, just release a remix. It’s not about Senyawa anymore. We don’t have to use the same methods that people have used before this; we don’t have to do things the way we used to in terms of releasing and publication and everything.

Were you scared about letting go of control of the music?

Rully Shabara: Initially, yes (laughter). But what’s the fear? What are you scared of? That people will make money off your music? That’s good, no? That means people can eat from our music, that means we gave them food. If someone can buy all our albums and sell them at a higher price, then do that! (laughter). We’re all in this pandemic situation right now.

Wukir Suryadi: And they can make merchandise too, and that’s really nice.

Rully Shabara: And if people make remixes and sell it, Senyawa doesn’t make any percentage of that. Don’t get me wrong, we don’t want to take any percentage of these remixes. It’s all the property of the label. People don’t have to worry about royalties then if they do remixes. That triggers creativity.

There’s always this fighting over who owns what. If the artist is willing to let go, it can only get better—the music is not only for the artist’s benefit, or for people who have the privilege to buy expensive, imported vinyl. People can use the album and remix it themselves and make money from that. And because so many labels are releasing it, if people just want to buy it, they can get it from a local store—it’s cheaper. It all makes sense to us.

Wukir Suryadi: We can’t tour with the pandemic going on either, so having this release reminds people that we’re alive (laughter). We don’t have support from the government—we know we have to do this ourselves.

Rully Shabara: We hope this release inspires people. Like, if Senyawa is active, then maybe there’s hope for other musicians who make weird, non-commercial music. We show them that we can survive.

But there’s also another layer to this, a geopolitical one. This is the idea of sharing. The norm for distribution in the music industry is very Western. What we’re doing is different and it’s coming from a duo in Indonesia. The exploration of contemporary avant-garde music is usually done by scholars or by Western practitioners using influence from other cultures. They go to Indonesia, study about the traditional music there, and then come up with something, and then that becomes a great or new kind of music.

There’s a danger in that because there’s always a sense of superiority and inferiority, that one is the subject and one is the object. What if it doesn’t have to be like that? What if Asia isn’t just about traditional music? What if we also have radical ideas? It’s very powerful if you think about it. We don’t have to go out there and study it or look for our influences because it’s us.

I think about that a lot. I’m Korean, and people sometimes talk to me about “Korean music.” But when you talk to people, they often only think that “Korean music” refers to traditional music. If you show them experimental music or even pop music, it’s not uncommon for people to just say, “Well, this is just Western music.”

There’s this idea that if you’re an artist who isn’t based in the West, your music is just copying ideas from America or Europe. That same accusation of identity is far less likely when an artist in America, for example, is making music that borrows from other countries. The only way for an Asian artist’s music to be seen as “authentically Asian” is if they do traditional music.

Rully Shabara: Ideas that are seen as progressive, modern, or radical always have these associations that come from the West. But is that true? (laughter).

Right, exactly. Do you mined talking further about the traditional aspect of Senyawa’s music?

Rully Shabara: It sounds like traditional music if you listen to it, but you can’t really pinpoint what part of Indonesia it comes from. You know it’s Indonesian music, but trying to answer the question, “Where exactly is this music from?” is hard. For example, in Alkisah I used the traditional Minang language in one song, but it doesn’t sound like it! (laughter). It’s always like that because Wukir has his own history, I have my own history, and when it’s mixed, of course it’s gonna be something unique. It should be, right?

Part of our history is modern influences too. There’s metal music, there’s everything we listened to when we were teenagers. All of that is embedded in us, and we can’t betray that when we make music. You can’t say, “Oh, I don’t want to have any Western influences.” You can’t! It’s already in your blood, how can you remove that from yourself when you make music. It’s supposed to be a pure expression. And if we want to be honest when we make music, there’s going to be some Western influences, there’s going to be some traditional element to it, and there’s going to be something that is unique to our personal experiences.

Earlier, you were talking about Sujud and mentioned the word humility. Do you think humility is important to have as a musician?

Rully Shabara: Yes, to some extent. But if you want your idea to have an impact, you have to have confidence as well. Humility without confidence is not enough. In Sujud, when I talked about humility, it was in the context of how prostration symbolizes the release of one’s own memories and identity. It’s about submitting to whatever is bigger than you, about submitting to the earth and its power and energy. Some people call it God. It’s humility in that context, that humanity is nothing without it. But as musicians, you have to have both the confidence and the humility. I’m talking about balls (laughter). Because even if you have good ideas, you have to have the balls to really say (in a firm tone), “My idea is good.”

For your new album, what was the hardest song for you to make?

Rully Shabara: They’re all difficult for us in different aspects. “Menuju Muara” has a lot of layers and the energy is really hard to maintain. But also, for the past two months or so, we’ve been rehearsing all the songs, as well as old songs, with acoustic guitar and without any microphones. We’ve been trying to strip down everything to the purest form, to just acoustic guitar and voice. We were practicing how to bring the same energy with these minimal tools.

Wukir Suryadi: The acoustic setup can be played anywhere, anytime, in any situation. We don’t need a sound system or heavy equipment.

Rully Shabara: That’s another bullet, it’s another tool to survive (laughter). It’s very low budget and we can play anywhere.

Rully, what are the influences for your texts?

Rully Shabara: It’s always different but this time it was more about storytelling. In Indonesia we have pantun, which I use in one of the songs. That also influenced how I structured the words in the lyrics.

That makes sense. I wanted to ask: Are there any Indonesian bands that you could recommend, that you feel are doing interesting things.

Rully Shabara: There’s a compilation that we both curated called Gugus Gema. I’ll send you the link. I’ll also send you a description of all the songs on the album.

The following was sent via email and is a description of songs from Alkisah:

Alkisah” itself can be translated to “Once Upon A Time”

Alkisah I” is basically a prologue to a story that is being told in the rest of the songs

Kekuasaan” = “Power” (as in dominion, control). The short lyrics translated: “What is the meaning of power when the end is at hand?”

Menuju Muara” = “Towards the Estuary.” Tells the story of people realizing the end is near decide to rush towards the estuary and build a better civilization to survive the apocalypse.

Istana” = “Palace.” The people in the estuary becomes just another ruler, and worse.

Kabau” = lyrics are written in Minang language of West Sumatera, translated as “Ox” or “Buffalo.” A collection of Minang old proverbs, a reminder of the old world that was left behind before the estuary, about its wisdoms and humility.

Fasih” = “Eloquent.” People revolt against the rulers of the estuary, who are eloquent in preaching about creating a better world but have created a worse one instead. The people have finally spoken their mind and rise up to kill them all.

Alkisah II” is a conclusion to the story. The regrets, the realization of all the destructions that have happened because of greed and hatred toward each other. But it is all too late.

Kiamat” = “Doomsday.” The doomsday is upon us.

What plans do you have next?

Rully Shabara: We will have an Alkisah festival on the 20th and 21st of February. We’re gonna stream all the remixes and labels can create their own program for what to stream. And then around March or April, we’ll have an Alkisah online tour. We’ll have a different set for every gig. If we have ten gigs, we’ll play ten times. We can have different instruments and sets—it depends on the request from whoever books us. We have an acoustic set, a percussion set, an Alkisah set, it can be outdoor or indoor, with or without visuals (laughter). And we’ll have a channel for people to talk with each other after the show.

There’s one more question that I wanted to ask that I like to ask every artist. What’s something you two love about yourselves?

Rully Shabara: (laughs). That’s a difficult question. (pauses to think). What I like about myself is that I pursue what has to be achieved. This might not be good for other people because when I try to achieve a goal, it takes a lot of time and effort, and people close to me are affected in a bad way. I won’t have a lot of time for them. But that’s what I like.

And you, Wukir?

Wukir Suryadi: I like when I’m useful to people around me.

You can purchase Alkisah via one of 44 participating labels. A map of all participating labels can be found here. The album is being released in the US by Burning Ambulance and Katuktu Collective.

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Writers Panel

Every issue, Tone Glow has a panel of writers share brief thoughts on an album and assign it a score between 0 and 10. This section of the website is inspired by The Singles Jukebox.

Various Artists - Heisei No Oto: Japanese Left-field Pop From The CD Age (1989-1996) (Music From Memory, 2021)

Press Release info: The title of the compilation Heisei No Oto refers to the sound of the Heisei era, which began in 1989 and corresponds to the reign of Emperor Akihito until his abdication in 2019. Marking the culmination of one of the most rapid economic growths in Japanese history, 1989 also coincided with the music industry’s final shift away from vinyl in favour of CDs. And, although compact discs were first introduced seven years earlier it wasn’t until late into the ‘80s that, beyond dance music labels, CDs became the exclusive format for major and independent labels in Japan and throughout the world.

This however didn’t signal the end of the innovation in Japan. Many of those same musicians who have become known for their work in the ‘80s would continue to produce outstanding music well into the mid ‘90s, as greater innovation and advances in musical equipment allowed Japanese musicians and producers to refine and explore new sounds. While musicians such as the seminal Haruomi Hosono, whose productions feature on a number of tracks, would continue to push the boundaries of these new technologies, these technological advances also meant less established musicians were able to make use of increasingly affordable but state-of-the-art equipment.

Purchase Heisei No Oto at the Music From Memory website.


Jesse Dorris: I’m really looking forward to discussions about how this fares as a summary (or exploration, or exploitation) of Japanese music, of left-field music, of Pop music. Much of this too-much compilation is excellent on its own terms: Fumihio Murakami’s “Miko” is all crisp wooshes that brought a smile to my face while walking in a snowy park and then stopped me cold when the vocals snapped, like an icicle falling through deep space; Keisuke Sakurai’s “Harai” made me think about what would have happened if Love’s Secret Domain-era Coil produced Diamond Life-era Sade, the answer to which is either this or Stereolab, and why not both.

In Heisei No Oto’s  90 minutes, there’s also some stuff I just can’t with: Yosui Inoue is a legend but his “Pi Po Pa” is, for me, on the wrong side of the divide between Domenique Dumont and Dave Matthews Band. I don’t know if Love, Peace & Trance based their track “Yeelen” on the glorious Malian film of the same name, but its hooey doesn’t transcend. Still, thinking through these sounds in a Compact Disc context is intriguing. There’s a sort of roundness to Kina Tomoko’s “INK” that, to my ears, relies on what we consider a lack of surface noise for its effect. The deep gloss that coats dido’s “Mermaid” conjures interference colors from the murky keyboards, which is a neat mirror to this ode to a mystical creature which itself emerges from light hitting a round of petroleum.

Many of the comp’s tracks hover around the 5:30-7 minute mark, and I wonder if that length is influenced by the relaxation a 76-or-so minute a CD affords. Heisei No Oto is an awful lot of sweet sophistication to digest all at once. But it’s fascinating as a compilation of music released in a golden age of compilations—the period of series like Warp’s Artificial IntelligenceMo Wax’s HeadzVirgin’s AmbientSub Rosa’s Myths, Volumeand more—where the format created possible communities, consumable undergrounds, and frames for various artists pushing boundaries, approachable by novices and arguable by fans.
[8]

Zachariah Cook: Mellow is the leading impression given by this batch of “left-field” tracks. Even the most energized selections build from the ground up, starting with languorous rhythms and hypnotic motifs. Whether this is characteristic of the Japanese “left-field,” I couldn’t say. Aside from hearing (and enjoying) Light in the Attic’s recent compilations and a few popular YouTube playlists, I haven’t heard much 20th century Japanese music. In any case, I don’t question the “pop” part of the title. From the slowest slow-burners to some verifiable earworms, these 16 pieces go for immediate impact. Because of uniformly clean production, isolated effects pop left and right. It’s hard to resist the unapologetically blissed out synths on “Take No Michi,” while the marimba on “Harai” recalls a zany Frank Zappa show. Every artist foregrounds something shiny and round to sink your teeth into.

I like the variety usually found in compilations spanning years and styles. I’m a little disappointed by the lack of it in Heisei No Oto, not just in terms of style (the faint jazz inflections on “Phalanged Vortex” left me wanting so much more), but also energy. A few too many songs drag on past five minutes, when another “Pi Po Pah” would have significantly bolstered the mood (I listened to the vinyl sequencing, which is good, if slightly turgid). Still, Heisei contains a lot of fun, especially on repeat listens. It’s not destined to be a fixture of my own collection, but it’s exciting enough to make a crate digger out of me.
[7]

Oskari Tuure: Whenever a new compilation of Japanese music is announced, I dare not get my hopes up: the mainstream success of city pop and new age ambient records has led to the release of so many entry-level compilations that don’t offer much to someone who’s already familiar with the genres of the ’80s. Here, just the title of the compilation, Heisei No Oto: Japanese Left-field Pop From The CD Age (1989-1996), already communicates a different approach—instead of featuring Rare Groove Vinyl Nuggets that sell for hundreds of dollars on Discogs, the tracks here are deep cuts from legitimately overlooked albums that were released on a consumer format that most hobbyists today deem boring.

Not everything on the compilation is necessarily very poppy, but there is a common thread of pop music sensibility woven through every track on here, and owing to that the collection is legitimately full of exciting discoveries. The highlight and also the most obviously pop track on the compilation is Yosui Inoue’s “Pi Po Pa,” a perfectly restrained song about nervously calling a lover on the phone, punctuated by the titular onomatopoetic beeps of punching in their phone number. The track is arranged by Inoue and the grand old man of experimental Japanese pop music, Haruomi Hosono, whose distinctive brushstroke is all over the production. An understated mbira arpeggio underscores the full track, and the synth solo in the latter half is absolutely kaleidoscopic.

From the less poppy inclusions, Kina Tomoko's “INK” and Keisuke Sakurai’s “Harai” particularly stand out because they so heavy-handedly flirt and experiment with elements of traditional Japanese music. “INK” features vocals inspired by the secular minyo folk music over a backdrop of cosmic ambience and minimalist beats. “Harai” mixes ritual chanting with electronic rhythms in a way that sounds like a shinto monk's idea of hip-hop. It’s absurd and genuinely hilarious.
[7]

Gil Sansón: The title is pretty self explanatory: a mixed bag of goods of the early days of digital sound production for a medium that was revolutionary and that gave the record industry its most lucrative years. Globalization at an early stage where optimism and idealism was peaking, but the immediate availability of music of our day did not exist and music got its exposure on magazines and radio shows, which operated at a local stage for the most part, and the music scenes in Western Europe and the US having the lion’s share in print and on airwaves. A handful of sonic explorers like Hector Zazou or Japan’s own Ryuichi Sakamoto were bridging the gap between East and West and those were also the days in which the awareness of music from outside the Western pop canon was beginning to coalesce into a number of specialized record labels and festivals. It was also a time of standardized record production, with sounds that at the time were radically new but that in many cases haven’t aged well (the CD format, with all its clarity, only makes the problem more noticeable).

Zazou is the artist that first pops my mind when I listen to “Miko” by Fumihiro Murakami. It could have been on any of his records and bears a similar production style. It’s a style that may sound a bit too pretentious and precious for its own good but here it works like a charm. The late ’80s and early ’90s were also the heyday of the fusion of ethnic elements with sampling and new age electronica, a combination responsible for some truly ghastly music. The trend caught up in Japan as well, “Yeelen” by Love, Peace and Trance shows it in spades, but the track is perhaps closer to Soma and Pablo’s Eye than Enigma, thankfully. Another aspect of the time that irks me in 2021 is the overt reliance on sequencers by many producers, and of course this can be found here. In general there’s an air of artificiality to the standard of the day that stains most of the stuff in here, however leftfield the aims. Songs that could have been quite good suffer from the timbre choices (digital pan flutes, yuck!), like “L’ete” by Ichiko Hashimoto. Others skip that bullet for the most part by adding elements from Afrobeat, like “Pi Po Pa” by Yosui Inoue

Elsewhere, Eiki Nonaka tones down the style of production and getting it closer to Color of Spring-era Talk Talk on the deceivingly titled “Phlanged Vortex,” but it’s too meandering for its own good. Kina Tomoko approaches a similar territory in INK to bands like Cocteau Twins and This Mortal Coil and i’s perhaps my favorite from the collection. The fretless bass makes a much welcomed appearance in “Co-Cu-u” by Adi, but that’s not saying much, I’m afraid; there’s an aimless nature at many of the songs here and mood tends to prevail over substance. Japan is a very peculiar case of a culture that’s deeply inward and very aware of other cultures at the same time. You can find student ensembles playing any sort of music style from every culture, but here these outside influences are rather neutered by the digital sheen of the production, which most of the time sounds like the work of one person with guest vocalists (I assume that it’s probably the other way around, singers choosing to work with a particular producer, or at least a combination of the two).

As the record progresses we can hear the improvements on the sonic and the technology advances, which benefits the whole; there’s full awareness of the record as historical artifact. This improvement in the production values helps tracks like Nobody by POiSON GiRLFRiEND or dido by Shizuru Ohtaka and Michiaki Kato, but one thing that strikes me is how conservative Japanese left-field pop was at the time, at least the tracks presented in this compilation, compared to other music scenes and to Japanese left field pop and rock in more recent times.
[5]

Sunik Kim: There’s no other way I can put it: this album actually bored me to tears. After suffering through its absurd 90-minute runtime, the music immediately evaporated from my mind, as if I had never listened to it at all. Each track ticks drearily, drearily, onwards—the flat drum programming and ‘ethereal’ synths, for all their sheen and sparkle, are stripped of any real vitality, instead drooping and loping along into nothingness. Worst of all, the so-called “Left-field” nature of the “pop” compiled by Eiji Taniguchi and Norio Sato here only means a total absence of what actually makes pop so great: hooks, catchiness, innovative song structures, rhythmic invention and drive, literally anything to hold onto. Instead, as is too often the case, the labels “Left-field” or ‘experimental’ simply become convenient excuses to offer half-baked, stale, scattered sounds and approaches that go nowhere; the rich, radical tradition of truly great experimental pop music is somehow reduced to the bland pursuit of ‘atmosphere,’ noodling, and over-long track lengths, at the total expense of anything actually remotely compelling. For all the album’s airiness and buoyancy, I actually felt trapped by it—it simply refused to end, and honestly depressed me more than any doomy slowcore ever has.
[0]

Eli Schoop: It’s never been a better time to be a foreign fan of Japanese music. YouTube’s algorithm has shone a light onto a variety of different Japanese subgenres and scenes, from city pop and jazz fusion, to Shibuya-kei and psych-rock. Niche channels seem to upload obscure records daily, surfacing relative rarities for those who were never able to chance upon these records in their own countries. And compilations such as Kankyo Ongaku and Wamono A to Z give listeners specificity in their Japanese music, further expanding the wide swath of musicians who have yet to get their chance in international limelight.

Music from Memory has seen it their opportunity to add to this menagerie of Japanese exports. Their collection Japanese Left-field Pop From The CD Age, 1989-1996, is a strong attempt to fill the gaps of knowledge in Japanese music for foreign listeners. Usually the proximity to this type of music starts and ends with the work of Togawa Jun, which is understandable given how dynamic and sublime it is. It’s nice though, that there’s a concerted effort to expand the horizons of avant-pop, however, the pop aspect of this compilation is disappointing. The reach to try and do both on songs like “INK” by Kina Tomoko fall flat in comparison to the more experimental tracks.

Regardless, when the field is most left on this collection, it’s killer. “Night In Aracaju” has this ephemeral new age vibe that healthily encapsulates the imagined Brazilian nights so destined from the instrumental. And I know it’s tedious to mention vaporwave at this point but holy shit “Phalanged Vortex” has the DK Eyewitness rainforest energy down pat. I like the concept of a truly Japanese left-field pop compilation that melds both genres considerably, but the curation on this record is so good I can’t fault its conceptual flaws.
[7]

Mark Cutler: This compilation succeeds as an introduction to an under-explored period of Japanese music, insofar as it will likely lead each listener to discover at least one or two new, truly excellent musicians. I consider myself moderately familiar with a variety of Japanese music, but most of the names on this comp were not immediately familiar to me. Some of the artists come from more well-known, globally beloved acts like P-Model and Colored Music. Others are more obscure, working under a variety of shadowy pseudonyms, or having only released a couple of albums. All of them are operating here in the distinctive blend of electronic, new-age and ambient music which, in the 2010s, went from historical embarrassment to massive cultural industry.

Most of the music is slow and expansive, finding various ways to meld instrumental and orchestral arrangements with the increasingly high-fidelity synthesizers which entered the market in the 1990s. Only about half of the tracks feature any kind of vocals, and these are often the more interesting pieces. On ‘Miko’, Fumihiro Murakami juxtaposes rich synth arpeggios and naïve, slightly off-kilter vocals, to charming effect. Ichiko Hashimoto’s ‘L’ete’ has an impressive range for its five-minute runtime, subtly but repeatedly pivoting between an uptempo, jazzy vocal track and an airy, new-age synth exploration. Yosui Inoue’s ‘Pi Po Pa’ borders on straight-up bossa nova, before a squall of flutey arpeggios push the vocalists aside.

There are, however, some questionable choices here. Eiki Nonaka’s ‘Phlanged Vortex’, for instance, is a meditative instrumental track, featuring sax licks by the legendary Yasuaki Shimizu. It’s pleasant, but not particularly interesting or memorable—which, given that its eight-minute runtime accounts for almost a tenth of this ninety-minute comp, makes it difficult to justify the track’s inclusion. Keisuke Sakurai’s ‘Harai’ recalls the regrettable 90s ‘world beat’ trend of combining traditional or spiritual musics (in this case, the ritual chanting of a Japanese prayer) with some schmaltzy, meandering lounge. Where some of the songs on Heisei No Oto sound strikingly modern, these compositions sound very of-their-time in a way that is neither musically compelling nor historically interesting.

I did enjoy this album overall. Heisei No Oto is a good resource for some of the lesser-known figures of Japan’s electronic, ambient, and new-age scenes, and it certainly sent me on a couple of download-sprees. However, as a listening experience, its two discs can be exhausting. Many of the instrumental and ambient songs don’t feel meaningfully distinguished from the stacks and stacks of Japanese new-age which has been endlessly reissued in the last decade. Other songs only serve as reminders of music-industry trends which are, frankly, better left in the past. Some strategic cuts and rearrangements could both improve Heisei No Oto’s flow and chip away at its feature-length runtime. In its current form, I can’t imagine many people slogging through this compilation more than once or twice.
[5]

Rose: The purpose of various artists compilations can be roughly separated into three categories. The first group is compilations intended for listener convenience—an easy way to get songs the listener will mostly already know. The second is compilations meant to broaden the listener’s taste and knowledge, often with informative liner notes. The third is compilations that provide the listener with music they cannot otherwise get their hands on.

Of course, the third category is the most interesting. The music on such compilations have long been out of print and will be new to people even with a passing familiarity of a compilation’s theme. A successful compilation with this purpose will require a compiler with extraordinary passion and knowledge. These compilations are often unlicensed, following a tradition that started in the late ’70s with Greg Shaw’s Pebbles series and has expanded to nearly any genre with a record collector following.

With any trend in music, there will always be hasty cash grabs. The original psychedelic era provided countless of creative people a voice in the record industry, but also resulted in unscrupulous Italians hastily remixing Mulatu Astatke’s Afro-Latin Soul and retitling it Le allucinazioni. While the recent hype for ’80s Japanese music might be more on the legal side, one can argue that compilations like Light in the Attic’s recently released Somewhere Between: Mutant Pop, Electronic Minimalism & Shadow Sounds of Japan 1980-1988 comes across as a tasteless cash-grab made by confused, impassive and ignorant producers. Said album is advertised as “showcas[ing] recordings produced during Japan’s soaring bubble economy of the 1980s” where “[m]usic echoed the nation's prosperity," yet it features some incredibly non-commercial DIY recordings alongside slick studio productions. The unlicensed (and later licensed) series of compilations Messthetics originally featured volumes of UK DIY bands starting with a certain letter. A passionate compilation of just bands starting with the letter “B” will be better and more cohesive than a 5-disc set compiled by people with the mindset behind of Somewhere Between.

Music From Memory's Heisei no Oto: Japanese Left-Field Pop From the CD Age 1989-1996 is compiled by Norio Sato and Eiji Taniguchi, who both are record store owners in Osaka. The duo’s background as record store owners is interesting, because the music on here wouldn’t be stocked in their stores which are both focused on vinyl. Indeed, the source albums for this compilation generally aren’t sought out by collectors or speculators. I have previously bought mint condition CDs by artists on here for as low as 300 yen.

While I tore apart Somewhere Between for being an unfocused mess, this is not one. While the theme here is similarly loose, there’s a clear sonic cohesion to the selections. While the careers of long-time Japanese music icon Yosui Inoue—who has sold over 10 million records—and 16-year old prodigy Noriko—whose eccentric project DREAM DOLPHIN ranges from ambient to harsh electro-industrial—couldn’t be further apart, the album flows so nicely that you never start to feel disoriented. The batucada percussion of Jun Kagami’s XÁCARA with lush production by Toshifumi Hinata fades out to an effortlessly Momus-penned song by POiSON GiRL FRiEND. It’s even nicely sequenced on individual vinyl sides! The A-side has some of the most out-there ambient selections and the D-side is all uptempo left-field dance tracks.

By far the most interesting piece to me on the A-side is Tadahiko Yokogawa’s “STOP ME,” a hypnotic minimal percussive track. Yokogawa was active in a number of bands in the ’80s, most notably P-MODEL (for their KARKADOR album) and After Dinner. Even though I’m familiar with like four bands he played in, I’ve never heard his solo work and this sparked my curiosity. The ZABADAK-esque “Co-Cu-u” by Adi is a stunning track by another seemingly forgotten group led by violinist Aska Kaneko.

Digging for music, scraping through scraps of information to connect the dots, and sharing your discoveries with friends has made my life a lot more vibrant. This compilation gives you 16 or 17 fantastic tracks depending on your choice of format and a highly informative booklet for you to start to learn more. I hope a stalactite falls on every single music journalist hack trying to reduce human interaction to some proprietary relation algorithm from a Fortune 500 company and caves their skull in (no offense).
[9]

Average: [6.00]


Fred Frith & Ikue Mori - A Mountain Doesn’t Know It’s Tall (Intakt, 2021)

Press Release info: A Mountain Doesn’t Know It’s Tall. The title reflects the mood of this duo record of Fred Frith and Ikue Mori – playful, poetic, mysterious and open. The guitarist and the sound-artist have been working together for forty years. Live excerpts from their work are documented on Fred Frith’s 3 CD box set Live at the Stone (Intakt CD 320). In January 2015, Frith and Mori met in Germany to record the music for a radio play for Werner Penzel, the filmmaker and longtime friend of Fred Frith, for his film Zen for Nothing.

After finishing their work, they used the free studio day to record their first duo album together. Influenced by the film music and inspired by the long friendship 15 pieces were created that are both wonderful sound sculptures and fascinating dialogues. Fred Frith writes: “Air moving through ears and hair and lungs and pores, through songs,and scrapes, and scraps of this, that and the other.” And Ikue Mori writes: “… it was about playing with the everyday noises that arise when cooking, playing ping-pong, and especially when laughing. There is a lot of joy in working with these recordings, interacting with them and making music.

Purchase A Mountain Doesn’t Know It’s Tall at Bandcamp.


Vanessa Ague: A Mountain Doesn’t Know It’s Tall maps what feels like a coming-of-age story, from anxious blips of dissonant sound to sparkling, powerful cognizance. Unabashedly abstract, its ever-pulsating sound is full of an unstoppable vigor, but unfortunately, that vigor isn’t always cohesive, sometimes feeling more like a sporadic series of thoughts than a fully-formed package. Nevertheless, the album has its shining moments, particularly in its latter half, when it hones its impulsivity into a twinkling, atmospheric mystery.

Fred Frith (sound art/guitar) and Ikue Mori (percussion) are a veteran duo, and their forty year musical partnership is quite obvious on this album; the erratic nature of many of the tracks can only be pulled off by artists who are truly in-tune with each other’s style. Their musical telepathy comes to the fore during “Hishiryo,” where a forlorn hum breaks the repetitiveness of earlier tracks, which are almost all bite-size snippets of swishing scratches and prickly guitar that are easier to tune out than to listen to (an exception is the delightful “Nothing to It,” which finds Frith and Mori in an abrasive conversation of harsh strums and squeaky percussion). With “Hishiryo,” the album takes a decided turn into the mystical, replacing stagnation with fluidity in what almost feels like a left-field choice; “Now Here,” the penultimate track, runs with this vision, uniting a shroud of ominous drones with an intoxicating beat. With the snap of a finger, A Mountain Doesn’t Know It’s Tall sheds its nervous cocoon and emerges with hope. As that tension melts away, Frith and Mori show the power that was hiding beneath the music all along, leaving us with the welcome sheen of unbridled potential.
[6]

Gil Sansón: I have to say that in 2021 my expectations for a record by this very reliable duo partnership weren’t high. It has nothing to do with their more-than-proven musicality and character than a preconceived notion that these two could not surprise a listener like me anymore due to my decades-old familiarity with their music.  Happily, I’m proven wrong right away in the first track: a minute-long calling card that sounds as current as anything being released today in the field of EAI. On some tracks we hear Mori taking the foreground with Frith adding colors and textures, while in other tracks the roles reverse. Nothing stays in one place for long and the numbers are short, so listeners with short attention spans will have a field day with these busy, insect-like sounds. Even more, headphone listening reveals clever use of stereo panning.

Frith uses his whole bag of tricks here, but it’s all done so economically and tastefully that no one can complain without appearing to hold a personal grudge. He can easily turn his guitar into a mbira one second and the next he’s sawing the bridge like a lumberjack, and Mori covers all frequencies, one or two at a time. The tracks seem to have twins, and the titles give away the kinship between the individual pieces, giving the record a nice sense of internal symmetry that adds a bit of extra value to the whole. Interestingly, the roles of the guitar and percussion (with Mori on electronics ever she left DNA) seems irrelevant: the guitar is often a percussion instrument, complementing the electronics in the area of timbre and renouncing to melodic and harmonic duties almost completely.

Like I said, this is music that moves in familiar tropes for any EAI aficionado, but it's done masterfully by two essential artists of the genre that refuse to live on past glories. Much has happened in free improvised music and EAI since these two began their careers, but here they prove that they are aware of what’s happened in the past 20 years, and their music reflects that without following trends. There’s no meandering, no fat, no excess, no showing off. Sure, some of the electronic sounds are familiar, and when Frith gets into his busy e-bow antics the effect is a bit like knowing the trick of the magician, but these are minor complaints in an otherwise always-engaging record.
[7]

Jesse Dorris: For various reasons which, in a generous mood, I’ll ascribe to my shaky mental health and which, worse, might just be lazy wallowing in pattern and repetition, I don’t usually have a tremendous amount of patience for work whose form is formlessness, or sounds that way. I could put myself on the couch for why these particular recordings—which sometimes resemble a frantic searching for the right pots lid in a darkened, dubby back kitchen cabinet—triggered, in me, affection instead of anxiety: one reason might be the way a noise seems to arrive followed by itself in reverse, which is close enough to twice; another might an echo deployed just enough for me to feel like I might not know where I am, but that I’m somewhere.

Lately, I’m trying not to pull apart pleasure. This pair of experts know what they’re doing, and I don’t, and they’re using noises that signify magic (the glistening bubbles of “A Thief Breaks into an Empty Room”), or bliss (the Krautish organs that pump “Now Here”), and their titles (“The Biggest Idiots,” “Good for What?” are cynical but their performances resist. They pluck and smack and ring and peal and 90 seconds later set some up another little playground. Why argue with delight.
[7]

Maxie Younger: I find A Mountain Doesn’t Know It’s Tall inscrutable to a fault, such that it tends to slide off my ears like water on Teflon; electronic gurgles, puffy, reverberant percussion, and confident pulses of guitar tread lightly around one another, an animated conversation deeply embroiled in its own internal logic. Frith and Mori speak to each other across the stereo field with all the ease and slouch of your favorite baggy sweater, meandering, folding, unraveling: the tracks don’t progress so much as they exist, briefly, and then snuff themselves out, unhurried but swift in their pacing.

The album was recorded as a spur-of-the-moment gesture, and something about it feels possessed with all the bubbly giddiness and immediacy of impulse that act would imply, reveling in its diversions, its transience, its inconsistencies. Mori depicts the process behind these recordings as riffs on the noises and rhythms of everyday life. When I read that, I think about the way I improvise my daily routines, performing endless variations on the same basic framework: looking at the ceiling as my alarm blares, laughing at the little in-jokes I tell myself, cooking breakfast on autopilot, gazing unfixedly at the filigrees of orange heat creeping up the edge of the stove coil. Just like those sacrosanct, yet fluid rituals, A Mountain Doesn’t Know It’s Tall works best when you don’t think about it too much.
[6]

Ryo Miyauchi: Fred Frith has kept himself around diverse company that inspire him to change his approach on the guitar from one to another: he simply reacts to the conversation happening around him yet different collaborators yield unique results. He enters another separate dialogue now with Ikue Mori, and their back-and-forth in A Mountain Doesn’t Know It’s Tall pushes Frith to focus on the tactile qualities of sound. Mori chiefly leads the situation at hand, guiding it by summoning insect-like buzzes, electronic crackles and other squirming noises from the arid silence. Frith shapes his guitar into dissonant textures in response to best fit it in the cacophony. The two occasionally meet halfway with scrapes and plucks of the latter’s instrument blurred with the former’s wash of ambient noise. That said, it’s easy to lose their separate identities in the cacophony; I particularly find it hard to make out Frith’s contributions among some of the tumbling sounds. Perhaps the noise in A Mountain Doesn’t Know It’s Tall is a bit too consuming.
[6]

Mark Cutler: Okay, both of these musicians are absolute titans. Fred Frith of course started out in the legendary Henry Cow, one of the all-time great avant-rock bands—alongside This Heat and basically no one else. Since then, he has played mostly prepared guitar in innumerable groups and on innumerable records. His immense talents are always in demand, and he is always happy to oblige.

Best known for her involvement in the seminal no wave band DNA, Ikue Mori remained associated with New York’s free-improv rock and jazz scenes, even as her own music veered further and further towards bloopy, skittery musique concrète. In her solo output, Mori spent the 90s and 00s creating sonic bricolages of digital rattles, chirps, and other indescribable noises, all rushing by in disconnected bursts. Her music makes me think of immaculate but brittle materials, like ceramic and glass, colliding at relativistic speeds.

Mori and Frith have already played extensively together in various groups and live settings, but this is apparently their first duo-improv album. The fact that they pulled this together in a day shows how comfortable they are playing together, weaving their wildly different sounds around one another. Frith brings an amplified guitar and other home-assembled instruments that scrape and squeak—a far cry from Mori’s alien electronics. Yet the two find numerous, interesting ways to combine the two, and never sound like they’re crowding each other out.

For that, Mountain is unfortunately not particularly revelatoryof either player’s work, or of the zen monks and monasteries which apparently inspired it. Only a couple of tracks make me think of anything Zen-ish. One is ‘Hishiryō’, on which Frith and Mori mimic the tone and lilt of a shakuhachi by a clever combination of guitar feedback and pure, synthesized sine waves. Another is ‘Now Here’, which begins with a soothing, baritone drone, and evolves into a surprisingly structured and lovely song. I imagine, for some reason, a sunrise viewed from a great height. Otherwise, this feels like an album they could have made at more or less any time, say, when they had a spare day in a recording studio—oh wait, they did. This is an enjoyable slice of abstract noodling which will surely please fans of either or both musicians. However, I doubt it will be remembered as a classic in either musician’s legendary and prolific discographies.
[6]

Sunik Kim: The percussive, nimble opening three tracks, especially “Stirred by Wind and Waves,” are promising, though utterly familiar and quotidian—spidery live-processed free improv can truly only go so far, especially in 2021. But as soon as “Nothing To It” kicks in, with Frith’s frenetic, squiggly, done-to-death guitar picking (pecking?), I immediately lose interest: so this is going to be that kind of album. The rest of this bloated and aimless collection trudges single-mindedly through the godforsaken (but densely populated) land of experimental noodle soup—where expired, warmed-over ingredients live on far past their sell-by dates.
[2]

Matthew LaBarbera: “In the pasture of this world, I endlessly push aside tall grasses in search of the bull.” Shikantaza, they tell you. It’s nothing but just sitting. Of course, what is just sitting? How do we get there, to be just sitting? There’s so much to shed. Does not even your zafu get in the way of just sitting, the mat and the floor, too? Thought, sensation, breathing, peristalsis, homeostatic activity? And why, why Roshi, do the bells have to ring, the chores get done, the birds sing? Shouldn’t they too be just sitting? Even at night, there is no just sitting; you only hear the locusts chirring through the forests.

But it is all in hunt of a trace. Somewhere in that sitting, in deepest vale and along eldest river, you might discover a hoofprint, its shape summoning the image of the taijitu disassembled. The grasshoppers still sing their circular song, the shaking of the trees leaves a rough, shaggy music, and the water glisters in both eye and ear.

Twit twit twit jug jug jug jug jug jug

“These songs that are here and gone,

Here and gone,

To purify our ears.”

When perceptions merge, the bull appears. Indomitable, it bears its power in its neck. The muscular work of movement proffers hidden grace beneath a shambolic, heavy gait. In those moments, when the bulk of the bull swings, horntips tracing sacred syllables in the cloud-mists, thought is suspended as will meets action. Things move in fragments. A hoof grinds grass and soil. Nostrils pinching and flopping forth in a snort. The hairs of its tail crinkle against each other. A twig snaps. As the bull charges forward, you catch yourself moving backwards. It is not just you and the bull dancing like sparrows, flitting and folding through space—the forest itself turns in time, the sweet grasses waggling around your featherlight fernfoot.

With crop and cord, you bring to heel the beast. As your journey wends through the forest, the bull’s gentleness grows, your gait becomes its gait. Six legs walking in tandem melt into four. From your new promontory, limbs draped across its stony flanks, voice, from no center, begins to issue. “Measuring with hand-beats the pulsating harmony, I direct the endless rhythm. Whoever hears this melody will join me.”

It is harmony, though not as you have known it. A pebble rolls from the cliff into the stream, an owl whoops low in the last dregs of day, a grasshopper strums its legs. The sound of things is univocal; their texture is made tangible by only one law. When you arrive at your thatched hut, it is dawn. The bull lays down to rest, whip and rope find themselves locked away in a trunk, and you just sit.

Seigin Ishin, or those who claim to speak what he spoke, tells us: “Before a man studies Zen, to him mountains are mountains and waters are waters; after he gets an insight into the truth of Zen through the instruction of a good master, mountains to him are not mountains and waters are not waters; but after this when he really attains to the abode of rest, mountains are once more mountains and waters are waters.”       

Another philosopher, or someone who pretends to speak what he spoke, tells something else, but not so different: “You argue that to exist is to exist through an Other. So far so good. But, as you say, someone must therefore be central to your existence, Ezekiel. Vhen two subjects come together, they realize in their reciprocal intersubjective life a common vorld. Yes? Compared to this, all other vays of being are fragmentary. Partial. Hollow. No matter how passionately you pursue them. The universal name for this final, ontological achievement, this liberation—Occidental or Oriental—in which each subject finds another essential is love. […] Ja, love. Do you haf a lover?”
[7]

Average: [5.88]


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