In the wide-ranging requirement to categorise, ‘experimental’ covers a whole lot of ground. What might be someone’s idea of aural torture is another’s creative bliss. Perhaps the biggest issue can be where pleasure can be found in something that’s hidden to others. Music that nudges towards that most feared tag – extreme.
Common factors are savage repetition, high pitched electronics, feedback/noise and ragged jazzy improv. Axis/Another Revolvable Thing by Masayuki Takananagi New Direction Unit straddles many of these apparent red flags spectacularly.
The work of Masayuki Takananagi has always had a strong draw, over the handful of albums I already have, it’s always clear his work delights in musical forms that seem to operate in a hugely innovative way. Imagine silence as physical space and sound as material to fill that space with. Different improvisatory sounds fill the space in different ways. In Takananagi’s hands, he approached things with two clear strategies – ‘gradually projections’ and ‘mass projections’. Presented in this edition by Blank Forms, the two albums originally released as two separate discs have been reconfigured and presented in the order that they were played live in 1975. Each of its numerically coined 6 parts form an almost 100-minute-long journey from sonic restlessness into a spiky mayhem.
On the first disc, Fragment I (Gradually Projection) sees the quartet offer up agitated and chewed morsels of sound. Takayanagi (guitar), Kenji Mori (reeds), Nobuyoshi Ino (bass, cello), and Hiroshi Yamazaki (percussion) delight in flurries of actively peeling around a void. The empty space at the heart of these initial parts is even more exposed in Fragment II (Gradually Projection) as the forms slowly rise and fall. Together they solidify into a near 40-minute-long block that feels like endless static instances culled from a huge explosion.
Fragment III (Percussion Solo) reveals an even more stripped back dappling of sound. Percussive clusters splattered like stringy painted daubings that align into rhythmic islands before tearing themselves apart. This 13-minute section forming a sonic bridge between Takananagi’s projections.
Blank Forms · Masayuki Takayanagi New Direction Unit – Fragment – VI (Mass Projection)
As expected, disc two wastes no time in heading straight into much more cluttered zones with Fragment IV (Mass Projection). The reeds and strings creating a constantly bubbling soup of which slowly grows angrier. Fragment V (Mass Projection) outlines a similar zone with rounder, larger and more deliberate gestures before heading into a huge metallic shard filled tunnel.
Overall, so far, in this already vast journey, there is a sense of building pressure and ever-growing density and aggression. However, the slow development throughout these vast tracks gives the listener time to explore each stage, like someone nibbling at chillies as they head adventurously up the Scoville scale.
Fragment VI (Mass Projection), is the final destination and the longest section at a bold 23 minutes. Here, we are in a proper maelstrom, chaotic scribbles and each atom of the music buckling and seeping into any pocket of silence. This is an inky black noise made out of scorched rubble, but it begs to be played as loud as you and your surrounds will allow.
Axis/Another Revolvable Thing undeniably plots a journey that feels like a showcase of the entire tonal palette. Six parts that flythrough different percentage tints of white, grey and ultimately black. Completely improvised and free of any apparent narrative other than about trying to convey incrementally wilder overall intensities in huge aural steppingstones.
The hugely obvious idea to present these landmark recordings in the order that they were originally birthed makes these already visionary works more approachable, without losing any of its blistering ambition. An absolute masterpiece from a true visionary mind.
Axis/Another Revolvable Thing is out on 7 August, pre-order the double vinyl or 2x CD here