In the 1980s, Seijiro Murayama drummed with Fushitsusha and Absolut Null Punkt. If heaviness was his goal, he started out on the top floor. In the 2000s, he’s chosen a new path, appearing mostly with European improvisers and sound artists like Lionel Marchetti and Eric Cordier. When he toured the US last year with just a snare drum and a few hand-held instruments, Murayama’s objective was to raise the hairs on the back of your neck using the sparest of gestures.
Despite the apparent similarity of their instrumental line-ups, that economy of means and seriousness of purpose are all that unite Window Dressing and Axiom for the Duration. Each is a duet with a French saxophonist, but they sound completely different. For most of the former record, Jean-Luc Guionnet uses his alto saxophone to generate short pops and barely perceptible hums separated by canyons of quiet. Murayama’s playing is just as spare; a beat here, a whoosh of brush against skin there. Every sound he makes feels like a moment of high drama, and when Guionnet finally breaks into a series of arcing high notes and longer exhalations on “Procession” after 42 minutes have passed, it’s a shattering surprise. Trying to grasp the shape of this stuff is a bit like an advanced class in mindfulness; it’s no small task to hold so much empty space in your head. It might be more rewarding to simply deal with each moment as it comes.
Jean-Luc Guionnet and Seijiro Murayama – “Processus”
Time is also a key dimension in Axiom for the Duration, but its musical content couldn’t be more different. Rives’s approach to his instrument and its history could fairly be described as antagonistic. The long tones he plays defy the limits of breath, and he doesn’t even leave us the breadcrumb trail afforded by the in-and-out gasping usually associated with circular breathing to mark the way. The main changes he affords himself are between pure and abraded tone. Murayama matches his approach with continuous sonic waves most likely obtained by dragging a mallet across the surface of a cymbal. These twin streams of sound flow side by side, sometimes in harmony, sometimes disturbing each other with unsympathetic vibrations that make the music shudder with peristaltic motion. It’s as severe as the most fundamental minimalist composition, but the fact that it is made by two men matching (or mismatching) sounds in the moment gives it a gripping immediacy.