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Nobukazu Takemura Sign Review

Album. Released 21 November 2000.  

BBC Review

Re-issue of 2001 EP from glitchmaster Takemura.

Colin Buttimer 2004

Nobukazu Takemura is one prolific musician/composer. Sign originally came out in 2001 and is being reissued by Thrill Jockey. In the meantime it's been succeeded by five more cds (Animate, Water's Suite, 10th, Assembler and Songbook).

A key element of much of Takemura's output is its playfulness (his main pseudonymous project is even called Child's View). That characteristic is to the fore on Sign, whose cover art depicts a cartoon sci-fi scene. Look a little closer though, and the spacesuited child-robot stands before a river apparently discharged by a futuristic building/spaceship, under a sky clouded by the smoke from its chimneys. To either side of the river lie what appear to be a dead dog and dead birds. For such technologised music this appears to be making a contrary statement, borne out by viewing the accompanying video to the title track (a fairly bizarre and highly simplistic ecological fable concerning the robot girl warring with evil old men who pollute her world).

Sign is apparently an EP and by clocking in at 64 minutes it really does live up to its category. The first two tracks, "Sign" and "Cogwheel" are busy and dense, bustling you along to such an extent that you hardly notice that almost twenty minutes have passed since they began. Their soundworlds are synthetic; squelchy and squeaky, like scrunching up bubblewrap. Lean closer and much detail is revealed to the attentive ear, though the sweetly songful vocoder lyrics remain regrettably indecipherable.

Track three, "Souvenir in Chicago", is just that: a musical memento of Takemura's 1999 sojourn in that city. It initially features Bundy K. Brown on guitar, John McEntire on drums and Doug McCombs on bass, tracking out often recognisable Tortoise figures. Although sequenced as a single 35 minute track, it's actually a succession of three phases which in its last part offers up what sounds like a lengthy computer manipulation of the other players. Whether they're actually playing or not is unclear. Whatever, the piece has an engagingly meditative, enquiring quality to it.

The final track, "Meteor", returns to the primary colours of the first two pieces, to a realm where an anime character appears to have jumped media and stepped from the world of comic books and screens right into the circuitry of a computer, sparking up the motherboard, making the monitor nod in time and the keyboard dance with the mouse. This music may have a similar effect upon you.

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