Toshimaru Nakamura & English - "One Time [Excerpt]" (One Day)
Desperate writers, this one included, often fall back on the adjective “abstract” when trying to figure out how to describe music that exists outside the bounds of regular tonality and rhythm. One Day’s selection of harsh, often electronic sounds and impromptu organizational strategies make it tempting to trot that word out again, but to do so would be a crime; music doesn’t get any more concrete than this.
By now, Nakamura needs little introduction (if you need to catch up, start here). English comprises Bonnie Jones and Joe Foster, a pair of US passport holders who both have spent time living and performing in South Korea. All three play electronics in ways that manufacturers wouldn’t recommend; Nakamura plays his mixing board directly, without input, while both Foster and Jones use cracked delay pedals amongst their gear. Foster, the sole acoustic musician, shows a similar disregard for convention on cornet; in ten years he’s never taken a lesson, never learned the notes.
Which isn’t to suggest that any of these musicians are naďve. Their technique is no less rigorous for being self-devised. This is apparent from the beginning of “One Time,” the first of three tracks that all last between fifteen and twenty minutes. All three players work with the essence of electronic sound. Squelchy blips and bloops signal against scouring static in a territory bounded by subliminal low hums, while hurried ticks and elongated high tones cut elliptical patterns into the auditory terrain. Aside from the names given to each improvisation, this music is totally non-representational; sounds simply are what they are, and the art is in how they’re wielded. The trio manages to make dancing flecks of crackle compelling and briefly sounded retreating tones thrilling in ways that no written description can convey. This music holds no more truck with symbols post-facto than it did while it was made, but simply remains what it is — irreducible and exciting.