“Exit Future Heart” follows three Good Willsmith albums released on Umor Rex and three albums by Dustin Wong and Takako Minekawa on Thrill Jockey. Recorded live at home in Chicago over the course of one night when Wong and Minekawa passed through on tour,“Exit Future Heart” showcases a program of spontaneous compositions that flow through mutated tropes of rock music, focused ambient/kosmische synthesis, and expanses of raw textural sculpting. The singular performance styles and improvisatory gestures of each member of the quintet fuse into a delicate interplay charged more by open spaces and deep listening than by overload or abandon.
Takako Minekawa and Natalie Chami chase each other through the mix with layered angelic vocalizations that flit from operatic highs to close-mic whispers. Minekawa’s flute-like Casio tones, prominently featured in her catalog of seminal shibuya-kei pop albums starting in the mid 90s, cut through in moments of colorful melody and hover in clouds of restrained pointillist harmony. As in her solo recordings under the name TALsounds, Chami’s signature Juno organ chords and cascading monophonic Moog blips compound through live looping and processing into the undulating bedrock of each session. Dustin Wong’s guitar shines in passages of crystalline clean tone picking and rockets into bursts of effect-soaked abstraction, capturing the glowing precision of his solo albums on Thrill Jockey and the optimistic energy of his his former noise/rock band Ponytail. When he’s not painting the mix with smeared arpeggios and quivering synth textures, Doug Kaplan (AKA MrDougDoug, one half of Chicago label Hausu Mountain) locks with Wong into tiered guitar riffs that conjure some image, however skewed, of a rock band’s twin six-string leads. In step with the frantic, style-mashing electronic arrangements of his solo project Mukqs, Maxwell Allison (the other half of Hausu Mountain) steers a rig of synths and drum machines through shifting IDM-esque bass and drum patterns, steady krautrock-inspired beats, and bleeping 8-bit square wave patches.
Channeling a varied palette of sounds at their disposal, the Dustin Wong + Takako Minekawa + Good Willsmith quintet’s extended improvisations segue through contrasting atmospheres and emotional zones. Rock backbeats pulse behind dense clouds of guitar and voice before fading into clattering arrhythmia. Empty passages embodying the Japanese notion of “ma” (or intervals of negative space) erupt for short moments with individual interjections before sinking back into near nothingness. The album ends with the quintet’s most frankly affecting session, whose title 切ない evokes a sense of melancholic ennui or a moment of twilit reflection. The voices of Minekawa and Chami fold together and crest over brooding chords into wailed climaxes of wordless melody, building into a holy meadow of harmonies that thicken with slow-drip synth and guitar embellishments. Taken as a whole, the quintet’s recordings pluck tones and strategies from a wide axis of seemingly opposed traditions: sentimental pop/rock-informed songcraft vs. no-holds-barred improv; self-nullifying drone and ambient stasis vs. constantly shifting electro-acoustic activity. Exit Future Heart stands as a singular document of five friends having fun, piecing together a hybridized strain of live performance that seems to gel almost too perfectly to be improvised, but that proudly displays too many idiosyncrasies and happy accidents to be composed.
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