tue 22/04/2014

New Music Exclusive: KanZeOn | New music reviews, news & interviews

New Music Exclusive: KanZeOn

Two exclusive free download tracks of stunning Anglo-Japanese improvisations from one of the films of the year

Sho player Eri Fujii who features on both our exclusive tracks

Joe Muggs writes: “KanZeOn is one of my favourite films – not just music films, but in any genre – of the past year. Not quite documentary, not quite art film, not quite music video, it's a slow, abstract audiovisual love poem to Japan and its relationship to sound and music. For the most part it shows three main characters (see the description by co-director Neil Cantwell below), playing music and narrating their understanding of that music – but in so doing, it tells us a vast amount about Japanese culture, psychology and spirituality, as well as showing some of the most stunning sacred places and areas of natural beauty I've ever seen on film.

KanZeOn Q&A at the ICA“I was lucky enough to see a very early showing of the film at the ICA right at the end of 2011, together with talks from the directors Cantwell and Tim Grabham and performances by Akinobu Tatsumi the "hip hop monk" who appears in the film (all pictured at the ICA, right). I was completely enchanted not just by the film but by the amount of love and knowledge the filmmakers had for their subject, and the sense of community they had built up among an extended family of musicians and collaborators, including the Leeds electronica/hiphop DJ/producer Gerard Roberts aka Kidkanevil who (along with Laurent Fintoni of Original Cultures) had alerted me to the project in the first place and who contributes to the remixes and reinterpretations on the CD which comes with the film's DVD.

“Since then, I have watched the DVD near weekly and never tired of it, always finding it as rewarding as the first time. It's not faultless by any means: there is clearly a lot of improvisation going on in the filmmaking process, and though the experiments often work brilliantly the electronic processing of sound and image can on occasion get in the way of appreciating the musical moment. This is, though, never enough to break the overall atmosphere of the film, which is utterly absorbing, and takes you into a world of evolving tonality where human-created sound is at one with its environment, and so dramatically removed from our conceptions of melody and rhythm that it sometimes feels like hearing music for the first time. I'm extremely happy, then, that Cantwell offered us these two tracks from his early research work in Japan, which each capture just a little of that feeling.”

Track credits: 

"Immanent" – Shinekosei & Eri Fujii + Koichi Yuasa: keyboard, Neil Cantwell: beats & samples, Eri Fujii: sho

"Minor" (field recording) – Dissolvingpath & Eri Fujii + Neil Cantwell: guitar, Eri Fujii: sho

Neil Cantwell's commentary: “All of the three main characters in KanZeOn come from musical connections that I made while living in Japan in the course of doing research about the Shikoku 88 Temple Pilgrimage and Japanese Religion more generally. Akihirio Iitomi – a master of Noh theatre and a kotsuzumi drum player whose love of jazz almost matches that of his passion for Japan's traditional performing arts – was my teacher when I spent six months studying the Kotsuzumi drum with him. I met Akinobu Tatsumi (pictured below left) – a young Buddhist priest and custodian of a temple outside of Kumamoto City who moonlights as a hip-hop DJ while indulging his love of beatboxing in remote forests – through making tracks and playing shows with him via our mutual friend Koichi Yuasa (Ko), who I was making music with as Shinekosei. It was performing with Ko that also led me to meet Eri Fujii - we played a concert at a venue in Fukuoka called art space tetra and Eri also happened to be on the bill. She has devoted her life to the mastery of the sho, a rare and ancient Chinese bamboo wind instrument evoking the cry of the phoenix.

Anikobu Tatsumi“Having been completely blown away by her performance, I approached her to ask about the possibility of working on some music together and not long after Ko and I went to stay with her for a few days. These tracks are the results of that time we spent together, although we actually spent very little time playing music and now those days are more memorable to me for the incredible religious sites she took me to, including the cave that ended up in the film. Both Ko and myself were incredibly affected by the overpowering religious atmosphere of where she lives, in a beautiful little house next to a huge lake formed by a dam - the first track is the three of us together, and then Ko was having a little sleep when Eri and I played the second track, during which a huge thunderstorm began, which was completely awe-inspiring, sat there with the doors open onto the lake as Eri somehow distilled the atmosphere into her sho, and I tried to keep up...”

So dramatically removed from our conceptions of melody and rhythm that it sometimes feels like hearing music for the first time

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