Brain Pulse Music

Masaki Batoh

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Brain Pulse Music Review

by Thom Jurek

Brain Pulse Music, by Masaki Batoh (leader of Japan's experimental rock band Ghost), is more than likely the most enigmatic recording you will hear in 2012. Batoh runs his own acupuncture clinic in Tokyo. He has long researched ways of making music with "extracted brain waves," and commissioned a company to develop a machine to do exactly that: he wears a special headset connected to a motherboard, which records waves from the brain's parietal and frontal lobes. It then converts them into radio waves, sends them back, and they get converted into wave pulses that render sounds. Batoh can record "the second-by-second reflection" of his mental state, and deliver sound immediately. His original concept was to record an entire album made directly by his mind, but when the 2011 earthquake hit Japan and he re-opened his clinic, he began treating people who had experienced deep trauma. He re-thought the project. He wanted to find a better way to treat people by calming the mind. To that end, he employed traditional instruments -- pipes, flutes, bells, wood blocks -- and his Brain Pulse Machine's sounds. They do not always co-exist on the same track here, but they do on three of seven pieces. On "Kumano Codex 1," the tinkling sounds of bells meet chords created by the BPM. The latter are in long, sonorous electronic drones. Pitches change and so do the durations of these chords. They are extreme, but harmonic; easy on the ears. The overall feeling is reverential, almost like the recitation of a chant or prayer. "Eye Tracking Test" is all electronic; it weds high-pitched, almost eerie tones with the intermittent use of hovering and swooping pulses. The next three cuts, "Kumano Codex, Pts. 2-5," are wonderful, sparse, simple, and repetitive, meditative pieces using traditional instruments: from a xylophone-like instrument made of bells with a stick or rod being pulled across them in a progression, to percussion instruments in specific cadences interspersed with bells and blocks. Pipes make a gorgeous appearance on "Kumano Codex 4," with a deep drum and blocks playing different rhythmic backings. "Aki no Okami," the set's closing track, begins with Brain Pulse Machine sounds, prayerful chanting in requiem style, and ebbs and flows in intensity until it becomes a nearly intolerable wall of noise -- perhaps expressing the horror that inspired the balm the rest of this recording serves as. Brain Pulse Music is the most traditional album Batoh has recorded, as well as the most radical and fascinating. Batoh is donating all proceeds from the album's sales to organizations that help earthquake victims.

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