Feature: |˟˟| (Gate) - Three Releases


|˟˟| (pro­nounced Gate) is a pro­ject ded­ic­ated to impro­vised and exper­i­mental music, foun­ded in 2009 in Tokyo by Lajos Ishibashi-Brons, ori­gin­ally from the Neth­er­lands. As a solo pro­ject, he released the first two releases Dis­com­fort and No Exit. Later in 2009, Takahito Hay­ashi joined the pro­ject, play­ing tenor sax and assor­ted other wood­winds. Together they recor­ded this year’s album Iter­a­tions. Recently, Lajos has been forced to reduce the pro­ject to a solo effort again, and he is cur­rently pre­par­ing new mater­ial.

One of the key aspects of |˟˟|‘s music is def­in­itely the use of unortho­dox and hand­made instru­ments. A full descrip­tion can be found on the offi­cial homepage, but import­ant to men­tion are at least the sousen, a four-string instru­ment used both for rhythms and loops, and for melodic parts, and an elec­tric morin khuur, a bowed instru­ment from Mon­go­lian tra­di­tion. With these instru­ments and oth­ers, and tools to cre­ate effects and loops, Lajos cre­ates his fully impro­vised, which are selec­ted for inclu­sion on releases without any post-editing.

Con­tinu­ing below, this ret­ro­spect­ive will now take a look at the three releases men­tioned above, and give a sketch of the unique sounds and exper­i­ments pro­duced by |˟˟| thus far. In addi­tion to these releases, there is also the 2010 self-released CDr Kam­in­ar­i­taki.

Dis­com­fort

Dis­com­fort is the debut release, put out in 2009 by The Pet Goat Records in a hand­made CDr pack­age. Like all of the albums to fol­low, it is a full one, clock­ing over one hour in music, dis­trib­uted over songs ran­ging from quite brief (around two minutes) to long tracks bey­ond the ten-minute mark. On most tracks on this release, the use of chords on a heav­ily down­tuned and dis­tor­ted gui­tar is the prom­in­ent noise­maker, pla­cing the music well in the dir­ec­tion of drone doom. |˟˟|‘s sound remains unique though, through the use of all sorts of weird noises and rhythms from Lajos’ one-of-a-kind instru­ments. Another line that runs through the album is a sort of free rock with a bluesy touch, such as on the track “34 ss​.gt”. Here we can hear cues from clas­sic exper­i­mental artists like Frank Zappa and Cap­tain Beef­heart. The com­bin­a­tion of these ele­ments makes for a unique sound that has little par­al­lels, as far as I know, in con­tem­por­ary under­ground music.

No Exit

No Exit was released on Flut­tery Records, also in 2009, and it high­lights some dif­fer­ent areas of Lajos’ solo sound. Gui­tars are still present here and there, but the album leans less on thick chords and drones than No Exit. There is a more prom­in­ent role for more abstract sounds, weird noise, and other exper­i­mental whims. There are, for example, ghostly string mur­murs on the short “38 ss​.mk”, but a chug­ging noise attack in loops on “13 ss​.rd​.gt”. “8 ss​.rd​.mk” con­tains sounds that lie some­where between shift­ing radio noises and the scratch­ing of records. There are also sev­eral longer sound­scapes on this album, cul­min­at­ing in the 27-minute final track. This one, entitled “27 ss​.rd​.mk​.bs”, starts out very subtly, with a soft rhythmic loop, some bow scratch­ings, and occa­sional bass notes, later adding dif­fer­ent sounds, though with the same low intens­ity.

A brief not about the sys­tem­atic track titles: they con­tain inform­a­tion about the instru­ments used in the impro­visa­tion, and I pre­sume the order in which they were recor­ded.

Iter­a­tions

The most recent album, also released on Flut­tery, is Iter­a­tions. As men­tioned above, Hay­ashi adds vari­ous wood­winds to this album, res­ult­ing in a fur­ther evol­u­tion of the sound of this pro­ject. In gen­eral, the tracks on Iter­a­tions can be said to be a bit more min­im­al­istic, greatly down­play­ing the role of gui­tar and dense tex­tures, instead opt­ing for more space and breath­ing room. This allows Hayashi’s sax­o­phone and flute to come forth clearly, as well as some melod­ies by Lajos’ more unortho­dox instru­ments. The key sound that eman­ates from this album is that of free music: whether it be jazzy or with a more - at times Japan­ese - freefolk tinge, or just straight-out nois­i­ness. As on pre­vi­ous albums, ideas some­times take the form of brief two-minute sketches, but often the tracks are spread out over longer peri­ods of time, here res­ult­ing in a num­ber of ses­sions that are calm and expans­ive.

On the whole, I find the music presen­ted by |˟˟| on these three releases fas­cin­at­ing and var­ied, each hav­ing its own par­tic­u­lar focus of style, while stay­ing abso­lutely faith­ful to the philo­sophy of free impro­visa­tion. Dis­com­fort is best described as an exer­cise in heavy drone doom and free rock; No Exit is looser and nois­ier, set­ting a step fur­ther in the dir­ec­tion of abstract impro­visa­tions; Iter­a­tions, finally, is a bit more organic, head­ing in the dir­ec­tion of free folk and jazz, while not totally relin­quish­ing noisy and indus­trial sounds. Not all com­pos­i­tions on these releases are equally strong or cap­tiv­at­ing, but Lajos man­ages to avoid for the greater part the impro­visa­tional pit­falls of mean­ing­less mean­der­ing. The struc­tures imposed by loop­ing rhythms and sounds work admir­ably in this con­text, and they give the listener some­thing to hang on to while other instru­ments set out into the great unknown.

In short, if you are inter­ested in strictly impro­vised music with an uncom­prom­ising and ori­ginal musical philo­sophy, these albums are all recom­men­ded for your listen­ing pleas­ure, each one geared slightly towards par­tic­u­lar con­crete musical styles that can help as a ref­er­ence point for the listener.

-O.S.

Links:

Offi­cial |˟˟| Web­site
|˟˟| Band­camp
Flut­tery Records
The Pet Goat Records