if you’re not crying, you’re an asshole.

Taku Unami/Annette Krebs Motubachii Erstwhile

When I was younger I would sometimes experience moments of altered consciousness, hypnagogic states and lucid dreaming, that would come at unexpected moments. Much of this stuff I still can‘t entirely explain the significance of. One experience in particular stands out: I was eighteen and visiting my parent’s house, who were not home at the time. I laid down on their couch and closed my eyes; after a few moments I started hearing things: scrapes and bangs; furniture being moved across floor; voices that sounded muffled, and that I could almost understand; laughter. I was not asleep as I could move my hands, although with severly limited dexterity (mana +10, magick +5 btw), and was acutely aware of my surroundings. I realized, without knowing exactly when, that I could see through my eyelids, and the living room’s stereo was lit up with LED-like glyphs that shifted in nearly non-perceptible ways. I was alarmed at first, experiencing a sort paralysis when I tried to pull myself out of the state, but then plunging back as though being dragged through a stream or torrent of water. Eventually I started to let myself go along with what was happening and stop being afraid. I realized later that it felt as though I was living through the life of that room in a course of a half and hour; in a way, how we perceive the linearity of events had collapsed on itself like an accordion, squeezed and then shattered into fragments. And I was listening in to the various fractured times and splintered events. I don’t want to drift off into some sort of acid-charred faux-Leary cosmic consciousness bullshit here, but it was an interesting experience.

When I listen to Motubachii, in a way, it reminds me of this experience. Annette Krebs and Taku Unami (neither credited with specific instruments) have created an album of seemingly disconnected sounds–sliding doors closing; guitar and banjo plucks; washes of traffic grind that resemble white noise; television soundtracks; disembodied voices; a child laughing; handclaps and layered them into a disconcerting but lovely whole. All of it approaches a similar imperceptibility as that event of shared time I experienced on my parent‘s couch.

There’s a bevy of strange occurrences on this thing, but when I say strange there’s still element of familiarity, of knowingness in all that is heard. Nothing seems out of place. Nothing is created for the strict novelty or peculiarity of the sound or placement. Everything seems in a natural order. Even though, very often, these sounds are not allowed to resonate fully and are strictly controlled and placed. Repetition is very apparent (as others I’m sure have noted the first track is the same as the last), and very often an out of tune chord, on what I assume is Krebs’ guitar, suddenly fades out, and is followed by a loud bang, a box being dropped on the floor or a door being slammed. I assume Unami is in control of this area non-instrumental sounds, although who knows. And good lord, an album like this makes assumptions seem so very assumptive, so it’s hard to judge. But I’ve found that Unami’s previous work often seems interested in the idea that any sound is musical — that there’s no real difference between a slammed door or the creak of a chair to the blurt of a horn or the pluck of a string. In fact, the emotional resonance of these mundane sounds seems almost more amplified in this context, more easily understood and empathized with than someone caterwauling through their saxophone or grinding out a power chord in hopes it instills their particular feeling at that moment. Let’s face it, we all know that Nuclear Holocausto’s unintelligible grunts are not about a desire for chocolate peanut butter ice cream, or that Brotzmann’s dry heave plunge on the tenor is not about Britney Speares’ navel (although…). There’s a beautiful ambiguity of emotion to a slammed door, loaded and strangely universal. Any sound, whether intended by the artist or not, accompanies some sort of baggage, and these unmusical events in this context seem to have more universal but singular meaning than some fucked up kid telling me that, hey, he‘s really pissed off.

But certainly there’s something amiss if you can’t find something musical in the so referred (by me) unmusical thwacks, slides and claps. They are juxtaposed so wonderfully, whether by accident or design, that nothing slips out of whack, achieving a union of the so right and so wrong, I’m reminded of tasting a Durian fruit for the first time in Vietnam — this ripening garbage mixed with cantaloupe, the texture like tapioca or string cheese depending on the moment — what a viscerally evocative fruit, one that can only be likened to, not fully explained. The aural palette of Motubachii, as unusual as it first appears, is actually not terribly varied in milieu. And in this sense, the collapsing of time, the repetition of events, of similar sounds seem so right in all it‘s outward randomness. According to the liners, Motubachii was recorded in five different cities– Hamburg, Tokyo, Kyoto, Kobe, and Kaditzsch — but I hesitate to say a travelogue is apt. I find that if anything, it sounds like the majority of it was probably pulled together from all those cities; field recordings, instrumental passages, and whatever else woven into one composition of seven tracks, creating this hazy, unified piece that seems to recreate different times, feelings, mundane happenings, which doesn‘t seem terribly singular to any of those cities. Is what they experienced on the road simply the sliding of a mini van’s door, the television in the hotel room, the dragging of music cases across the floor? Is the near random blurt of electrified string and the thwack of a banjo a snippet of a tune up, a practice, a performance? It could be anywhere in the world with but a few changes. And to return to the circular nature of the album mentioned earlier, there’s an odd feeling of endlessness, that perhaps there is a commonality of experience of just living. Or I suppose, more cynically, that the last track literally mirroring the first could be a put on for all of us who don’t pay enough attention, and are happy with … outness. Irregularity. Eh. I doubt that. The results are too worked out, worried over. This is the creation of timelessness. It never ends.

But Unami and Krebs sidestep nostalgia. They play around it by using these truncated instrumental sounds with supposedly unmusical events. As much as one can attach a significance to a stacatto clap in an arid room this doesn’t lend itself to wallowing in some remembrance. And similar to my lucid dream when I was younger, I was not left with the feeling of being taught anything. It seems so much music can be pedantic:

Feel this, now.

Oh shit, that just happened!

Understand what we did there?

Miss that allusion? Here it is again!

If you’re not crying, you’re an asshole.

But there’s something to be said for ambiguity. For not knowing exactly what’s happening or why. I find some of the greatest joys with art I don’t fully comprehend. It feels as though there are things that are unknowable and unfound. That mystery exists is a wonderful thing. And for the sake of closure, I still don’t know exactly what happened to me that day when I was eighteen. But it left me confused, and utterly enthralled. Something Motubachii does, as well. How rare is that?

erstwhile records


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