Toshimaru Nakamura

Meeting at Off Site, Vol. 1

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Off Site is a venue that served as home base for numerous members of the Tokyo onkyo scene, one devoted to the further reaches of electro-acoustic improvisation. Two of its most prominent exponents, Toshimaru Nakamura and Tetuzi Akiyama, are the common thread in this collection of live recordings, appearing on almost all of the tracks in the company of a variety of musicians, largely Japanese but with a few Westerners tossed in. As is often the case in the best examples of the genre, the pieces are at the same time extremely abstract yet oddly accessible, even gentle. Guitarist Taku Sugimoto, who had developed a very personal style with an ultra-quiet, subtly melodic approach, contributes to a few cuts (all track are untitled), and his guiding spirit hovers over much of the proceedings. The works tend toward the unassuming but intensely detailed, allowing the listener to wallow in a field of soft, intricate, and compelling sounds. When "traditional" instruments such as trombone (Toshihiro Koike), saxophone (Gregor Hotz and Thomas Ankersmit), or even voice (the amazing Amy Yoshida) are employed, they are rarely recognizable, instead melding seamlessly with the electronic components. Picking out highlights is relatively fruitless on such an even-keeled effort as this, but the quartet with the two primaries, Sugimoto and bassist Jason Roebke, as well as the trio with the wonderfully named Utah Kawasaki on synthesizer, are outstanding showcases of the depth and richness this kind of music can achieve. Listeners unwilling to part with the large sums required for the Improvised Music From Japan ten-CD box set can get a similarly fine (if less completely representative) picture of the hugely fertile Japanese improv field on this fine disc.

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