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Ikue Mori and Steve Noble - Prediction and Warning

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Artist: Ikue Mori and Steve Noble

Album: Prediction and Warning

Label: Fataka

Review date: Aug. 12, 2013

Sometimes odd couplings work the best. While electronic musician Ikue Mori is no stranger to improvisational musical situations, most notably John Zorn’s Electric Masada and the Phantom Orchard duo with harpist Zeena Parkins, she doesn’t usually choose projects that display her skills as a player quite so nakedly. Whether he’s playing with Peter Brötzmann, Stephen O’Malley or Derek Bailey, English drummer Steve Noble isn’t shy about displaying his chops. He’s not a show-off — he just finds ways to use a lot of what he knows a lot of the time. But Mori mainly plays a laptop computer nowadays, she started out as a drummer, and her responses to Noble testify to her essential grasp of a drum kit’s potential.

Which isn’t to say that Mori just stacks up the rhythms. She did a bit of that years ago, when she played drum machines in the days after DNA’s demise, and she isn’t one to step back into the past. Despite her reliance on digital electronics, she finds sounds as palpable and textured as old school French electronics. But she also exploits the laptop’s capacity to store, reverse and granulate sounds. With all those resources at her disposal, she is still determined to make each sound count. She knows how to spotlight a drum strike with swarming blips, as she does on “Black Death (Steve’s March),” so that its characteristics are amplified and illuminated. She knows that a bowed cymbal will do, and thus how to frame it. And she understands the physical journey a drum stick must take to connect with skins or rims, so that she knows just how to mark that path with pixilated sounds as surely as tracer bullets tell you where a machine gun is pointed.

Noble also shines in this setting. He doesn’t confine himself to the arrhythmic gestures of free improvisation, but instead pitches all manner of linear material, from the aforementioned march to the quick runs around a small gong’s periphery on “Land Of Famine.” He also stands up to partner’s breadth of material, using the full resources of his kit as well as supplemental instruments, such as the bells whose decay makes the finale “Inferno” end on a seemingly endless note. As a consequence, this music moves, even when Mori is working with synthesized sounds that seem trapped in forward-backward oscillations, and that sense of propulsion contributes enormously to its sense of excitement.

By Bill Meyer

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