Natsuki Tamura Quartet Hada Hada Review

Released 2003.  

BBC Review

Eccentric fusion effort from trumpeter Tamura together with wife Satoko Fujii.

Peter Marsh 2003

Imagine Don Cherry woke up one morning, found he'd joined an avant goth-rock band and was booked to score an Italian horror movie. It might be an unlikely scenario, but it goes someway to describing this magnificent sprawl of a record from Japanese trumpeter Natsuki Tamura.

Tamura is frequently heard with his wife, pianist and bandleader Satoko Fujii, where his cracked, anti-virtuoso lyricism and darting intervallic leaps make a quick witted foil to her relentless flow of melodic ideas. But here they're playing a different gameonthis blast of warped fusion.

Fujii sticks to synthesiser throughout, generating thick clouds of strings, demented organ textures or wildglissandi. Guitarist Takayauki Kato's equally free with the pedals, chucking generous amounts of distortion, ring modulation and pitchshift in the mix. And what a mix...Hada Hada has a strangely retro feel about it; Takaaki Masuko's furious jazz/metal drums are soaked in huge amounts of gated reverb, while Tamura's trumpet is strangely recessed, like he's playing in the next room, or maybe even the room next to that.

Sometimes the tape threatens to break up under the accumulated weight of Masuko's bass drum and the low throb of Fujii's synth. It's a bit like a lo-fi version of Bill Laswell's late 80s productions for Ronald Shannon Jackson or Akira Sakaata; as much a product of studio technology as breath, hands and feet.

Yet despite this lo-fi digital patina, Hada Hada is a deeply compelling listen (though maybe a bit much in one sitting). The opening title track sets out the stall for most of what's to follow; Tamura's bugle calls summon the thunder of Masuko's drums, which alternate between free jazz clatter and hardcore rock/metal propulsion, often in the space of single bar. Fujii and Tamura offer fractured little melodies before heading off into choppier waters. Kato's odd, metallic bursts and spidery runs are marked with uncommon restraint. Sometimes he's almost hesitant.

When the whole group slows down a bit (as on the slightly more reflective "Sateto") things breathe a bit more and Tamura's blurry musings are thrown into sharper relief. Which is no bad thing. Distinctively odd, and all the better for it.

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