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Old 11.08.2008, 09:04 PM   #118
hat and bread
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Join Date: Jun 2006
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New Haino release on PSF!


KEIJI HEINO - Koitsukara Usetaitameno Hakarigoto

The return of the "21st Century Hard-y-Guide-y Man"! "With its crank handle mechanism and drone strings out-numbering melody strings, the hurdy-gurdy is the Ur-industrial instrument par excellence, a connection Keiji Haino makes abundantly clear on the opening track of Koitsukara Usetaitameno Hakarigoto, the third album he has made under the tortuously punning banner of the 21st Century Hard-y Guide-y Man. The terrifying density and textures of his bone-shearing noise immediately bring to mind the arresting closing sequence of Halber Mensch, Japanese director Sogo Ishii's document of Berlin group Einstuerzende Neubauten's mid-1980s visit to Japan, when he filmed them in all their destructive glory at a busy intersection bringing the city to a standstill with their armoury of scraped metal and heavy machinery. The major difference is Haino achieves his pandemonium totally alone on an electrically amplified medieval instrument, and the chaos he invokes is of a wholly other kind to that of the displaced Berliners. Rather than creating chaos, he accepts it, even as he taps it for the tremendous energies needed to generate the overarching schemes that shape and contain his monumental works. Haino is not the only person using the hurdy-gurdy as something more than folksy color. There's Stevie Wishart working at the interface of contemporary composition and improvisation; and hurdy-gurdy player Cliff Stapleton featured strongly in the late output of Coil (the UK outfit of John Balance and Peter Christopherson, not to be confused with the Japanese unit of the same name with whom Haino has performed blues sets live). And though the hurdy-gurdy is but one of the hundreds of instruments he has gathered during his frequent working trips around the world, next to guitar, voice, percussion and electronics, it's the one on which Haino continues to evolve a distinctive body of work that is at once of a piece with and different from the main thrust of his music. Not that any one style holds true, mind, in a discography that is approaching 200 entries. As with his other instruments, Haino has developed methods of playing the hurdy-gurdy that both exploit and defy its particular character. Asked what compelled him to acquire one on a trip to France in the mid-1990s, he replied by mimicking the turning of a handle, saying it was the only instrument he knew of that you played that way, as opposed to striking, blowing, bowing or plucking it. His long-held interest in medieval European troubadour music might well have been another contributing factor. However, the hurdy-gurdy is more than the purely mechanical cranked instrument such as the barrel organ which it is sometimes confused with. The handle turns a rosined wooden wheel that bows a melody string, whose pitches are determined by pressing the tangents, or keys, with the other hand. The instrument usually contains two more sympathetic drone strings. How the player jerks or cranks the handle creates the fluttering beats and rhythms characteristic to its traditional use as a folk instrument at carnival or festival dances. Knowing as much is only so helpful to understanding the way Haino plays it. He hadn't had the instrument long when he released his first hurdy-gurdy album, Twenty-first Century Hard-y- Guide-y Man, on PSF in 1995. It was followed in 1998 by Even Now, Still I Think, released by the Japanese major label Tokuma as part of an extraordinary deal that saw the release of eight Haino/Fushitsusha projects in two stages (and if you think signing to a major in any way compromised the artist, you only have to check the number of CD length tracks of unrelieved intensity produced during the deal). First impressions from both is that Haino's instrument of choice is immaterial, that Haino plays Haino regardless, and on these two occasions the hurdy-gurdy just happened to be the tool selected to do so. To be sure, they both set out an extreme position from which they rarely retreat, with Haino sounding like he's pushing the instrument to the very limits of endurance. This is especially the case on the barely wavering 72-minute assault of the Tokuma disc. But as with much of Haino's music, it rewards the listener's perseverance through its most extenuated passages, which often come right at the front of his work, with moments of otherworldly, overwhelming beauty amid the swarming overtone activity generated at this volume. Before returning to his 21st Century Hard-y Guide-y Man persona on Koitsukara Usetaitameno Hakarigoto here, Haino dedicated a hurdy-gurdy disc apiece to the two double sets, Abandon all words at a stroke, so that prayer can come spilling out (released in 2001 by the Canadian label Alien8) and Reveal'd to none as yet -- an expedience to utterly vanish consciousness while still alive (recorded live at Tokyo Super Deluxe in 2005 and jointly released in December that year by the U.S. labels Archive/Important). Through them, all it's possible to discern id an increasing awareness and appreciation of the hurdy-gurdy's character. It's very much evident in this disc's opening track, alluded to earlier, in the way the turning crank handle sinks its drone deeper to the core, even as it sends up the baleful clouds of overtone dust that hover above the churning chaos. Tracks two and three make play with the bowing mechanism of the hurdy-gurdy wheel, its sorely tested violin tone transformed into an electric buzzsaw over rasping tones that simultaneously betray and exploit the hurdy-gurdy's fundamentally primitive construct. The third track, incidentally, is the album's magnificent centerpiece, evolving from a manic hoedown into a frenzied dance warding off the onset of melancholia represented by a buzzing secondary drone. Elsewhere the sounds Haino draws from the instrument range from delicate music box prettiness to something altogether darker, conjuring an image of a creaking ghost ship whose fate it was to be sealed at the point of breaking up in a storm for all eternity." --Biba Kopf
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