By all means, this is not the album you were expecting. There is nothing here coming close to the extended technique experimentations of Song for Jyaki or the paint-stripping ensemble sound of Hada Hada. Instead, Ko Ko Ko Ke is a highly serene, peaceful, intimate journey through the art of melody and play. Natsuki Tamura alternates between simple melodic statements interpreted as if he was murmuring them to your ear and onomatopoeic or nonsense vocal sections sounding somewhere between plainsong and sound poetry. The relationship between the two "instruments" is of a lead/accompaniment nature, not unlike the bard tradition often found in South Asian folk songs (especially in Khmer culture), although here the roles are interchangeable. The melodies are very simple and gradually developed; the sole objective of the notes seems to be to highlight the trumpeter's warm, engaging tone. The voice evokes anything but discourse: instruments, birds, machines. In "Peng" it reaches a peak level of abstraction, unfolding into three different "characters" answering each other in a way that brings to mind the Dutch sound poet and improviser Jaap Blonk. It is one of only two or three tracks that shake up the listener; everything else presents itself naturally and flows smoothly, carrying the listener from one statement to the other, each note more enrapturing than the previous one. And Tamura succeeds without a trace of servility or compromise to be heard. Many think that avant-garde music is difficult and challenging by definition, but Ko Ko Ko Ke proves that it can also be easy listening and heart-warming in its very own special way.
AllMusic Review by François Couture