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Album Review: Satoko Fujii Tobira – Yamiyo Ni Karasu

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I inserted the CD in the CD-player, pressed “play”, and waited for the music to begin. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I did not expect what penetrated my ears. Something similar to a screech ensued, making all the hair on my skin stand right up. I almost pressed “next” because I could not take it anymore! But my curiosity drove me to continue listening.

The allure of the album came from the unusual, discordant harmony of the instrumental ensemble. The quartet comprised piano, bass, trumpet and drums. But the sounds produced were of unoiled doors, old typewriters, and grumpy swings. The metallic parts of the drums were rubbed against one another in a chilling manner. If played conventionally, the drums were expertly maneuvered to match the beating sounds of my heartbeat as I was absorbed into the thrilling, terrifying magic of the song… And the trumpet! It was blown into, but its cries were blocked, forcing suffocating sounds out of the strained instrument.

The entire album maintained this feel. I was gripped by the quasi-unbearable tension of the discordant harmony between bass, piano, trumpet and drums. It reminded me of soundtracks coming out of a thriller movie; a Japanese thriller that increasingly twisted into a horror movie. I was transported to a traditional Japanese temple, lost and wandering yet seeking something unknown to me. I was threatened by the intuition I was approaching something dangerous, or rather something dangerous was following me. I was in a haunted house, where there was no exit, no way out, and I was trapped, entrapped to hold on til the end.

Overall, as a general rule, let me warn that this album is not for the faint-hearted, nor for the people who are looking for a conventional music album. These musicians are exploring diverse sounds they can produce, experimenting with the daring potentials of their instruments. I have to admit, the songs on this album are not really those I would add to my everyday playlist. But, it is an interesting one to try out, and I do not regret choosing “Yamiyo ni karasu” as one to review.

-Review by Se Jeong Park