Thursday 17 October 2013

Review: Takatsuna Mukai – 'Śūnya'


Takatsuna Mukai is a name that might not have come up on many people's radars, but it's a name that you won't forget in a hurry upon hearing his album 'Śūnya'. The London-based Japanese composer has worked in theatre (with Dragan Živadinov – part of the NSK – and others) with , as well as with bands/artists such as Gob$au$age, Ten Minutes With My Dad, Phil Dirtbox, Malcolm Poynter and SDNA. This sheer variety and an affinity for avant garde carries through to 'Śūnya' as the album melds, classical, industrial, post-punk, electro, ambient, trip-hop and jazz in unexpected but gratifying ways.

The album's twelve tracks, although varied in their styles and featuring a number of guest musicians from around the world, keep a degree of thematic continuity. Almost like an overriding atmosphere that is more in keeping with a film noir soundtrack. There is a post-punk drive to the majority of the album with tracks such as 'Blank Strip Is Black', 'Ballad Chaotique', 'The Store' (which features Renegade Soundwave/Rema-Rema frontman Gary Asquith), 'Alle Belle Statuine', and 'Feast Proceeds The Carcass' referencing the likes of Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds, The Creatures, Cold Cave and Zola Jesus. There is a fine line between the beauty of the melodies and the fierceness of the rhythms that is utterly compelling.

Mukai isn't afraid to get outright experimental either as the three title tracks prove. The first with its short de-constructed classical arrangement. The second with its classical and folk instruments reformed into an acoustic industrial-noise soundscape. While the third delves headlong into dark ambient waters.

There is an intense level of attention to detail that carries on from the bare bones of each song, outward and even through to the actual packaging of the album. The production and mixing could easily jump the shark at any point. But it doesn't. Even at it's most dissonant there is an admirable level of poise and control.

Mukai's prowess as a song-writer, producer and performer is undeniable. And his vehicle 'Śūnya' is original, intelligent and catchy. For those who have their roots in post-punk but are not afraid to get a little avant garde, this album will be a necessity.

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