Much as I love his work in Fushitsusha and Seijaku, and his dramatically and musically variegated solo performances, the Keiji Haino I want to hear these days is always the Keiji Haino with whom I’m not already familiar. And here he is, in the company of two Belgian artists, Jozef Dumoulin (Fender Rhodes) and Teun Verbruggen (drums), neither of whom I knew before.
The Belgian’s paths have obviously crossed a few times⏤they occasionally play in a trio, and they have recently recorded as Lomahongva with Arve Henriksen and Stian Westerhus⏤but their association doesn’t seem especially close, so the unique rapport they forge with Haino is remarkable.
They met when Dumoulin and Verbruggen Japan toured Japan, playing with local musicians, one of whom was Haino, and this album compiles two tracks recorded live with two others recorded in a studio, all in Tokyo in September 2015.
There are few sonic indications which are the live and which the studio cuts, and the album begins with the longest and most expansive performances from each.
Haino is credited with “guitar, vocals, flute, gongs”, so I must keep reminding myself that the liquid noise I might assume was from a Haino-operated touchpad MIDI controller must actually emanate from Dumoulin’s Fender Rhodes; and Haino’s guitar, presumably, heavily distorted by chain effects.
In any case, “Non-Dark Destinations” (25:49) is all suppressed violence, with Verbruggen’s kick drumming punching into, and cymbals raining onto grimy planar electronics. First Verbruggen kicks things along, imposing direction, then he eases off to allow a passage of comparatively gentle shimmering dominated by keyboard textures, merged so closely with guitar that it’s counterproductive to try to pick them apart: the merging is where the magic of subsummation happens. It’s not sustained: the ending features Haino’s guitar clearly struck, then racked over an irruptive breakdown into an ultimately tumultuous climax.
Counterintuitively, that long, open-form intro was a studio cut. The first live number, “Hotel Chaika” (19:23), begins as some sort of reprise: dynamic, irruptive momentum ceding ground in productive tension to mutually attentive soundscaping. Haino breaks cover after ten minutes with a vocal ejaculation, signalling renewed friction, and at 13:00 there’s a glimmer of whammy bar vibrato, allowing the ear to tune in to Haino’s frequency. As the 19th minute climax approaches, Dumoulin’s Fender Rhodes locks into a scuzzy riff, riding a barrage of percussion as Haino delivers an urgent, ultimately unhinged malediction (or so it sounds, maybe it’s a blessing; if you speak Japanese, please clue me in).
I assume it’s Haino’s gongs (though they sound like tubular bells) tintinnabulating throughout most of “Snow is Frequent, Though Light, in Winter”, a short (05:11), brittle concoction of peripheral kit abrasions and electrical dis/connection fuzz, at the end of which which he picks some abstract but judiciously delicate guitar figures. This is a track I’ll replay.
It’s also Haino who introduces “Tonight” (08:37), this time with a lovely, breathy flute solo. Verbruggen plays full kit with real delicacy, and Dumoulin also goes in for deep but suppressed Rhodes sounds as Haino begins to sing an emotive song, slipping from caressing crooning with peaks of strangulated anguish into a ghostly low growl, as the music recedes into shadows and silence.
This is an excellent introduction, for those of us who need it, to Dumoulin and Verbruggen, who play on an equal creative and empathetic footing with Haino throughout, and that’s what makes this top notch avant/improv set genuinely essential listening for Haino aficionados.
Keiji Haino guitar, vocals, flute, gongs; Jozef Dumoulin Fender Rhodes; Teun Verbruggen drums, electronics.
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Buy The Miracles of Only One Thing direct from Sub Rosa.