Despite some loud and even quite aggressive moments, Karoujite is bereft of grand virtuoso gestures. Instead, it demonstrates a steadiness and persistence that is quite hypnotic, in the way that people often find the almost-regular clatter of old film projectors hypnotic. Recorded in Mishima in the autumn of 2016, the album features three tracks from acoustic guitarist Cristián Alvear and percussionist Seijiro Murayama, both well-known figures in experimental music circles but collaborating here for (as far as I know) the first time.
The structure of each piece is simple: guitar notes or chords repeated at regular intervals, with continuous brushed, rubbed, or rolling sounds from the percussion. Sometimes the chords and timbres change within the piece, sometimes not. The guitar ranges from sharp, high-pitched pings to low rapid drive, making use of bright harmonics and palm-muted plucking. Meanwhile, the percussion creates all kinds of shuffling, swishing, shimmering, rumbling, and clattering, giving rise to resonances that are sometimes gentle and sometimes screeching. While playing a given combination of sounds, the two musicians keep the dynamics and tempo pretty much rigid, underscoring an impression of droning repetition.
The combination of plucked guitar harmonics and resonant percussion leads to some really nice sounds, and the flat, repetitive form of the music allows you to really revel in them, to become absorbed by these ringing and rattling tones. I particularly liked the intensity and sharpness of the more uptempo sections — perfect for snapping me back to attention when my mind wanders in a post-work daze. Maybe there’s not much to make Karoujite stand out amid a slew of similar approaches, but it’s a very enjoyable listen nonetheless.
Nathan Thomas l Fluid Radio l August 2017
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