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Ogurusu Norihide - Modern

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Artist: Ogurusu Norihide

Album: Modern

Label: Carpark

Review date: Apr. 30, 2003

What is Modern?

Ogurusu Norihide’s Modernis an untitled entity, scantily notated and packaged in a stark white case. About midway through Modern (song “five” to be exact) things start to pick up, or get down to business, depending on your trajectory thus far. “Five” is a dribbled piano melody that sounds like a Steinway grand submerged in a river, played through a delay pedal. After the album’s midpoint, the consistency and quality of the songs are stronger (save for the prolonged silence experiment of “six”), much better than the typical and hackneyed proceedings.

Songs “One” through “Four” dip into hyperbole a bit too often. “One” begins with a nice enough piano line, but microhouse blips invade the mix and thus squash the ear-candy melody. Disappointment is repeated on “Two”, but with guitar instead of piano. Had these downtechno beats been omitted there might be a better consistency to the album, but so it goes.

“Six” seems to be a conscious nod to experimental music. A ten-minute piece comprised of plucked guitar notes that breed long silences, eventually broken by hand claps or eerie synthesized pulses. The song seems a bit out of place on an album of predominantly nice sounding melodic lines, and I would be curious to discover its nature of composition. It would not surprise me if it were aleatoric or based on some kind of indeterminate compositional technique.

Norihide hits his stride with “Five”, “Seven” and “Eight.” Isolated instruments produce compelling sounds and draw the listener close. These moments remind me of the “Modernism” of Piet Mondrian and the logical ends of elemental ideas like line, color and tone. Norihide’s at his best when he focuses on single musical variables, gleaning their strongest qualities to bring them to fruition. “Five” jolts a mini-epiphany out of the fractured and inconsistent beginnings of the album. “Seven” is a maudlin fingerpicked meditation: a sturdy Fahey vision, played less aggressively, but with a keen ear to its folky origins. Indeed much of Modern evidences folk influences, but sounds like American folk sounds run through a Zen processor. The results contain traces of an ambitious American swagger, but are rigid and seemingly more disciplined. The careful overdubs, backwards guitar lines and other decorations remind us that the songs are carefully balanced, constructed from the ground up. These details keep a song like “Seven”, which at eight minutes needs some juice to keep it afloat, interesting and enjoyable.

“Eight”, the too short, but sweet closer, is the album’s best multi-instrument outing. The piano and guitar duet make for a great one-minute pop song. Unfortunately, "Eight" is introduced as quickly as it fades. With a decidedly more upbeat tone than the rest of the album, it displays a different side of Norihide than the previous forty minutes.

Modern as a whole begs what might have been one of the great Modernist quandaries: “What are the limits of a given genre?” Charting some similar territory as that of Mondrian or the Dadaists, Norihide finds great success in contemplating a particular instrument or melodic progression and exploring it fully. Keeping it within context, but not diverting from the essence. Not concerned with irony or the overtly self-referential processes of post-modernism, Norihide imbues Modern with a refreshing, earnest perspective.

This summer will find Norihide touring with new labelmates the Animal Collective. The two might make a good pair, especially if Norihide can harness some of the Avey Tare’s mystical, deciduous energy.

By Marc Gilman

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