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Heaven in the Koo
|Hiroki Okano||Native American flute, bouzuki, kalimba, bamboo flute, kane, stone flute, voice|
|Yasuhiro Minamizawa||sitar, autoharp, tampoula|
|Masahiro Bessho||tabla, Native American medicine drum, Japanese Shintoism bell, voice|
|Mariko Katsura||voice, tampoula|
|Nobuyuki Nishida||Tibetan tantric bowl, drilbu, voice|
CD, Playing time 47:00 minutes
(1997) Brain Food Music - BFM 87 4021-2 , DA Music, Kruppestrasse 7, D-49356 Diepholz, Germany
The first encounter I had with this group was their powerful and riveting performance in the chill-tent at last year's Rainbow 2000 Festival. An all-acoustic, seven-member line-up, performing deep ambient and overtone explorations on a variety of Asian instruments and voice. Think an all-Asian Popul Vuh, minus the piano, and you'll be getting close. TUU is another point of reference that's not far off. This album was recorded live, with the only studio gimmickry being some nicely deployed blankets of reverb, but don't let that trick you into thinking this is some kind of "folk" music --while using a number of acoustic instruments from different traditions, they are all used to create deep, meditative ambient, full of resonant textures. The key point of interest here is the group interaction, the subtlety and restraint with which members introduce certain parts, and build and develop them with each other. This is something that's largely missing from much ambient, and it's thrilling to hear it here. "Ten" begins with the pure tone of a Tibetan singing bowl, out of which emerges some breathy and haunting bamboo flute by group leader Hiroki Okano. A low drum tone hints at time, while numerous overtones start to hover around the singing bowl --voices? Who knows. Strange whooshes and sweeps that you would swear were synths off the latest 'Shades Of Orion" album, but it's all acoustic phenomena. 'Tsuki" announces it's coming with a tamboura drone, and Mariko Katsura's voice comes in as clear as a bell. Trained in India, the style she employs here is a derivation of that: more overtone oriented, and abstract, but just as beautiful. Dropping long floating tones and sudden gulps over the drone, she's joined by Masahiro Bessho's tabla and more of Okano's drifting flute, with just a touch of sitar to add some color. An incredibly tranquil piece, it leaves you hanging with every extended note. "Mizu" begins with another unidentifiable sound -- a dense cluster of notes, it sounds like a Japanese shomyo, but I couldn't say for sure. A stone flute howls above it, until it breaks and gives way to a minimalist kalimba riff, joined by low rippling tabla, waves, and more vocal drones. The track breaks and builds several times, reaching a new level of intensity: you can really hear the musicians listening to each other as this was being created --masterful interplay. Imagine late 70s/early 80s Steve Reich if he had decided to follow improv instead of systems. "Hi" opens with a blazing bouzouki and percussion riff, and the soundscape grows surreally wider as cascading sitar and a low rattling didg drone blast open the edges. Hiroki and Mariko trade soaring and euphoric vocal lines on top. At just under 4 minutes, this penultimate track serves as the peak. 'Koo" closes the album out with a long, meditative dreamscape -- all tamboura overtones, autoharp glissandos, swandiving sitar slides, and a perfect sensation of weightless space. "ABoneCroneDrone" fans will recognise and appreciate this sonic space immediately. Drones are really integral to this album, but --like with a good Indian alaap-- Tenkoo weave other musical events in and out of this lush current of sound. This album proves any number of things --that acoustic instruments and group interaction most definitely have a place in ambient music, that many concepts and sounds long present in Asian music are inherently "ambient", and that ambient can be informed both in sound and approach by spirituality--in this case Buddhism-- and be richer for it. These people are really serious about taking you somewhere with their music, and believe me, you can hear that on this album.
This is one nice record, make no bones about it. In fact it hasn't left the cd player since I received it in the post about four days ago. One of those records that leaves you with the feeling that nothing really matters, and this is not a bad thing as I have had a lot on my mind as of late. The Tenkoo Orchestra are not an outfit that I am familiar with. They are led by Hiroki Okano who plays various flutes, kalimba and uses his voice. Tenkoo are a seven piece outfit who play acoustic instruments like flutes, sitars, bells, kalimbas, tablas, didgeridoos and utilize their voices to create some of the most affective and deeply meditational ambience that I have heard in years. All members are given enough space to develop ideas and themes, and no one member is more dominant than the next. This is all very nicely balanced and the recording (for what I am told by Gio ) being a live set is excellent. Released through Brain Food Music which appears to be connected with the German label Innovative Communications (IC). IC in the past have released some really questionable material. Mind you if this is an indication of what the label is up to, well then it's time to forgive and start listening again. The overall sensation is one of weightlessness and true peace. I kept thinking about early Deuter, he of Rajneesh fame. A lot of what he composed was incredibly healing to listen to and turned me on to other forms of music, mainly of an eastern persuasion. This music takes me back to what I was listening to many years ago when I decided to promote this sort of music via radio.
Reviewer: Hans Stoeve