À Qui avec Gabriel

Utsuho

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Sometimes, a fan of avant-garde music can get struck by the simplest thing, simply because "simple" and "tonal" are not part of his/her surroundings anymore. That situation is what awaits followers of John Zorn's label "Tzadik" upon encountering À Qui Avec Gabriel's CD, Utsuho. The young Japanese accordionist recorded one of the prettiest, most unpretentious, and seductive albums to have find its place in the label's catalog. Yet, some listeners may feel it lacks experimentation, some risk factor -- can't "charming" be enough once in a while? À Qui Avec Gabriel ("To Whom With Gabriel," in case you were wondering if it made any more sense in English) writes simple melodies backed by half melancholic, half joyful accompaniment. She approaches her instrument with traditional means, leaving extended techniques and electronic enhancements to others. The whole thing brings to mind Debussy or Satie with a hint of musette and stands light years away from Kimmo Pohjonen's dark moody pieces. She is backed by a group on two tracks -- "Shikku" is the funkiest piece of the set. On others she duets with a guest: pianist Kawamura Meiko on the out-of-time "Haru to Shura," and Keiji Haino, whose shroud of electric guitar graces "Takehaya-Sayat," the most avant-gardist tune on this CD. À Qui Avec Gabriel is not a great accordion player or composer, and Utsuho will not make history. But listen to it anyway. It soothes the soul.

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