Mitchell Akiyama If Night is a Weed and Day Grows Less Review

BBC Review

Canadian experimentalist fuses organic and digital on this latest release.

Colin Buttimer 2004

The album begins with sounds of distant industrial noise, rapidly overtaken by a single note plucked repeatedly on a string - its decay, in fact its very substance suffering the attack of digital distortions. There's the crackle and sputter of familiar glitches, like the imprint of myriad pinpricks upon silk.

The scene (s)witches to piano chords struck again and again with force. Further off there's a continual rushing, as if spirits were racing past every moment, unseen. These notes might be sounded bravely in spite of their momentary, but ongoing presence. The piano itself sounds as though it's an old upright one that's seen better days, but it's still able to hold a tune, or at least the memory of one. There's something tremulously beautiful in its decrepit boldness.

"Enfin, Rien Est Gagne" begins with shivering vibrations like the extended drawing of drumstick upon cymbal, or perhaps it's the sound of a 78 rpm record being dragged slowly backwards, withall the music which once lay dormant in its grooves now lost to the gradual accumulation of dust and static. Whatever it is, the sound increases in intensity before giving itself up to shimmering piano notes like a horizon distorted by heat haze.

"With Hope That" is played insistently. That piano must be treated somehow or its player is bound in some way. Perhaps both are, each entwined in a locked embrace, only a few notes within reach. These few notes however are made to count through their higgledy-piggledy repetition. Player and piano are then encircled by the binding notes of a cello.

By the fourth track, "A Lesser Path Growing", the piano is becoming increasingly familiar, like an acquaintance imperceptibly becoming a friend. Similarly the music it plays occupies a midpoint which gradually moves from improvisation to composition. "Fall Away, Fall Away" pushes the hovering levels of distortion to a point where they obliterate everything else.

There's something ruminative, ethereal and worn about this music, it might be the soundtrack to a Brothers Quay film yet to be made, or it might be the sonic equivalent of an old photo album whose sepia images record long-lost summer days.

This is music played rather than assembled; the noises and corrosion are like the barnacles, rust and seaweed acquired by a ship over years of ocean-going. Reference points include Kazumasa Hashimoto's "Yupi" and Christian Fennesz's recent work, both of which share a similar hothouse feel. If Night Is A Weed... is a slender 35 minutes long, but this length is just right: any longer and its stem might bow under the weight, any shorter and it might not be noticed.

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