Hisegawa-Shizuo - Lift [Utech Records - 2010]In the brief poem in the booklet that accompanies Hisegawa-Shizuo’s Lift, we are introduced to an anonymous narrator who attempts to capture early sunrise in a hat – or so I interpret it - and finds himself successful – “perfect”, he mutters, before the poem unwinds into outright, abstract strangeness. As much as this surrealistic scene presents an all-out impossibility paired with downright absurdity, its surreal, imaginative grasp is certainly intriguing and strangely befitting of the musical work itself.
On Lift, the duo of Hisegawa-Shizuo lay down a wholly improvised work running just over 40 minutes, presented in all its rough, unedited completeness. It’s a very sparse work, comprised mainly of wood block clicks and clacks, and pitch-shifting synth (I’ll assume – there’s no mention of instruments in the liner notes). As is, it seems rather a-typical of the musicians’ previous musical ventures. Hirotomo Hasegawa has, since the early eighties, been the lead singer for Japanese punk rockers Aburadako, while Shizuo Uchida – less a-typically, perhaps – was part of Nijiumu, an experimental drone outfit headed by Keiji Haino, key member of the Japanese avant-garde scene.
These qualifications raise some expectations – however, those who think they’re in for a particularly inaccessible ruckus should think twice. As said, Lift is sparse – amazingly sparse. In between the whirs and the muted percussion, stretches of silence drift on and on. Even then, the instrumentation is subdued – seemingly drifting in from a distance, making the whole thing appear almost accidental. Not so much accidental music as accidental recording – Lift seems not to’ve been made for the ears of an audience. It’s intimate, introverted and very personal – a musical statement that betrays more of the musicians than you would deem possible – or comfortable.
As Lift unfolds, it builds from a matter-of-factly sound stream to a much more haunting and eerie piece. The percussion increasingly gains life, echo and resonance, while the whirs become increasingly gritty and unsettling. Much like the poem, Lift initially establishes itself as plain and slightly askew, and, at all times, almost inviting – but then takes an unexpected left turn somewhere, and you’re lost, wondering what went wrong where, and how exactly you ended up there. Inevitably, it feels like a descent into madness, a very personal madness – a frightening insight into the wicked mental workings of Hasegawa-Shizuo. As the piece reaches its conclusion, there’s a shimmer of light in the inevitable silence that drones on, just inside or outside the piece – you’re not sure - just outside of grasp for everyone except the duo themselves.
Lift is a remarkably achieved work, completely improvised but with a clear and admirable sense of direction, a subdued crescendo with no clear climax, leaving the piece satisfyingly unresolved. A frighteningly beautiful album that is recommended to anyone who is looking for a captivating sonic experience beyond their regular experimental fare. Sven Klippel