Hitoshi Kojo - High Tide Mirror [Omnimemento/Shining Day - 2012]The Japanese born, Belgium resident, Hitoshi Kojo describes himself as a 'sound-painter'. It suggests an audio exploratory form of abstract expressionism - a far less cluttered and confused realm than the more constricting, less meaningful tribal genre tags he undoubtedly encounters such as drone or dark ambient.
'High Tide Mirror', recorded live between 2010 and 2011 in Vevey, Switzerland and his current home of Brussels, has an idea of the music of the spheres at its core. His website presents a 'Preface' to the work - a great idea for a conceptual release that's confusingly omitted from the packaging. It states "Our bodies can become a receiver of cosmic music when we connect our roots to certain places on earth... to participate in the circular dance of the celestial orbs". This sense of universal animism permeates the six pieces on offer here, while remaining 'rooted', as his preface suggests, thanks to the raw qualities endowed by recording the pieces live.
The controls are set for the heart of the moon with opener 'Interstellar Creepers', its processed bird calls painting an outdoor environment where powerful kosmische chords streak the night sky. It's a howling invocation, a tuning-in, perhaps, to the vibrations of the universe.
Primed and ready for "the tonal dance with the sun and the moon", 'Seminal Weavers' follows with surprisingly musical matter. Here a jew's harp, harmonica and fiddle melt into each other in a resonant, cosmic hoe-down. The long breaths of harmonica lead onward into 'Unlaced Constellations', less of a celebration and more of a journey, as its tonal waves ebb and flow, gaining energy as the piece travels steadily onward. Midway through, Kojo's voice emerges as a devotional chant whose vibrations linger within the amassed vortex of sounds. The combination, with its delightful sruti box qualities, brings a sense of eastern religions and philosophies.
Finally reaching the moon with 'Lunar Germination', the sparse landscape is lent a more stately mode with uneven backward piano slices plotting a reverent melody gilded by scintillating string motifs. The hymn becomes submerged under building layers of suspended tones to suggest a kind of terra forming where growing signs of life cry out (occasionally reminding of the iconic language of The Clangers).
It's back to earth for the last two pieces as the moon's magnetic field conducts our planet's aquatic movements. The title piece begins with droning strings, reminding of Tony Conrad's New York experiments in the Sixties. Their subtle nuances shining brightly like dappling light on restless waters, then blending with the rich waves of an exhaling harmonium.
While Kojo's concept (and this written extrapolation, for that matter) may discourage those for whom a whiff of patchouli, or a yogic position rings post-punk alarm bells, the work is highly enjoyable on a purely musical level. Indeed, far from being merely abstract sonic artistry that the job title of 'sound-painter' infers, 'High Tide Mirror' has a highly melodic charge. Kojo's blend of recognisable, live instrumentation with natural found sounds and magical manipulations has far more to offer than mere hippy vibes - it is an unusual, highly personal musical statement on our relationship to the world around us and the mysteries of the surrounding universe.Russell Cuzner