6/16/17 – Nikos Veliotis, Taku Sugimoto & Kazushige Kinoshita & Taku Unami “Quartet” (2004)

Quartet is the creation of several string players who all have deep backgrounds in avant-garde, free form Jazz. This album is quite unlike anything I’ve heard, but I really haven’t delved deep into this genre ‘Lowercase’. It’s essentially extreme minimalism, with absolutely no structure of any kind. It takes huge inspiration from John Cage’s famous piece 4’33” – a ‘song’ where the band does not play anything. Instead the ambient noises of the listener(s) surroundings become the real song, challenging the definition of a song. This album also pushes those same boundaries- more of the noise on this album is a combination of the band shifting in their chairs, the creaks of the studio they were in, and the passing of cars on a nearby road.

On Music for 4 Stringed Instruments, the instruments are plucked or strung along briefly between minutes of silence, all seemingly at random. They aren’t used to create some beautiful melody or express some emotion, but rather just used as a tool to make noise, much like a Noise musician would use harsh scratches and static. The random notes are often just startling, but on occasion are quite pleasant to hear. Aceghd features an impossibly long continuous drone of string playing, creating a much different atmosphere than the opener. Here is when some emotion cracks through and shines in, and I find myself really enjoying the noise. There’s a brief pause then another drone continues, but with a slightly more uplifting tone. Improvisation is just that, like a combination of the previous two tracks, there are long stretches of ambiance as well as silence.

There are a number of ways to take this album, most easily being “this is the most pretentious pile of shite I’ve ever heard”. I definitely had that response when I first learned of this, but nevertheless it piqued my interest. Although I don’t despise it, nor do I love it, it’s still very interesting to me. Just like many other experimental works, it’s best to approach it with an open mind, and really let it speak to you before you make your judgement. You have every right to hate it, but I think it’s worth a try. Saying that, I would only recommend this to fans of Minimalism, Drone, and Noise… there are much more approachable albums out there if you’re just looking to get into the genre.