Nakatani Gong Orchestra is eponymous proof that while Tatsuya Nakatani often performs with a small army of implements and instruments, he can be just as effective with just one. The LP compiles and combines a handful of recordings made by the percussionist and a revolving cast of players into two sides of glacial gong ambience. Anyone who’s seen Nakatani live should be familiar with his skill in manipulating metal discs of all shapes and sizes, and as the director of the N.G.O., he uses the same techniques on a larger scale, creating rich expanses of sound that ripple and flow like the most seductive of Richard Serra’s oversized and oxidated steel sculptures.
Nakatani’s metalwork weaves the waves of vibrating bronze into a sumptuous sound. Nakatani Gong Orchestra is one of those records that rewards loud listening, with each uptick in decibels uncovering another layer of detail. The bowing and gentle striking of the gongs creates a shimmering sheen in constant motion, using the instrument’s inherently complex chorus of overtones to construct a dense canvas of ever-evolving sound. It would be impossible to dissect Nakatani Gong Orchestra into its individual parts, as Nakatani melds the different players and performances into a seamless whole, a sonorous mass of imposing intensity and beautifully wavering mirage. The sizeable heft of the sound isn’t enough to keep it from floating on air, a copper-toned aurora against a backdrop of endless black.
I’ve seen Nakatani nearly silence a bar with a solo performance, and that enthralling quality is replicated here. Nakatani Gong Orchestra simplifies the tools, but doesn’t sacrifice results. It’s music that feels deep enough to dive into, sharp edges and all.