Toshiya Tsunoda/Manfred Werder - detour (lossless)
Lossless AIFF (16bit/44.1kHz)
Wandelweiser artist Manfred Werder and Japanese field recording artist Toshiya Tsunoda in a large, layered work that merges and contrasts natural and urban sounds into a detailed work of subtle ambiance and intriguing sound.
For CD format, go to this page.
1. detour (64:58)
(released March 27, 2014)
recorded in Tokyo and Miura peninsula, Kanagawa, Japan, 2013
photography by Manfred Werder
design by Yuko Zama
produced by Jon Abbey and Yuko Zama
Jason Bivins, Dusted
Listening to the music of Toshiya Tsunoda demands a kind of heightened awareness and obsessiveness that must surely also be part of its making. His spate of recording in recent years has been welcome, since his sound-world is utterly compelling and entrancing, absorptive to the point that one actually starts to hear the world as a Tsunoda composition: the ambulance passing a quarter-mile away in perfect accompaniment to cicadas; a van door slammed emphatically against the sound of windblown leaves; the muffled conversation accompanying boiling water or frying oil.
Without compromising the singularity of his vision one whit, Tsunoda is also a consummate collaborator. On the one hand, he does this by interacting continually with the world around him. He has also released records with other musicians quite consistently, including memorable documents with Haco, Luke Fowler, Seijiro Murayama, and Michael Graeve. The Swiss composer Manfred Werder, a member of the Wandelweiser collective, has often produced challenging pieces for realization in difficult environments or to be paired alongside suggestive, even enigmatic text fragments. Compelled by the relation between composition and the varied forces “outside the work,” Werder’s problematization of the boundaries between music and not-music seems to resonate with Tsunoda’s interest provocatively.
That said, I did not immediately warm to or appreciate Detour, their 65-minute co-creation. Superficially, the lengthy piece hovers in the same area at length, conveying the impression of dwelling almost dispassionately at the intersection of burbling brook and insect life. What could it mean to stare unwaveringly at this area (or presumably any other) with the intent to problematize it completely, and reveal its wonders in so doing? Does this sleight-of-hand conjuration of the visual reveal something about the audible life-forms taking shape on this recording? These were the kinds of questions I had about the recording as I returned to it regularly. And finally I began to hear it in its freshness and intense, subtle detail.
Even for aficionados of this kind of recording, this one is super spare. The opening third in particular reveals its details so softly that you could almost miss those oh-so-faint electronic whines, those mild guttural sounds, and a hyper-ventilation that is so buried in the overall texture that it almost naturalizes itself. In each phase of the piece, a steady undercurrent of low tones recurs like something eating away at the creek bed. Add to this a dull, muffled roar, some vinyl crackle, and every minute or so something clicking in the foreground like a recording device being turned on. There is an audible shape and context, then, that become apparent the more you occupy this space; and only when you start to get a feel for the proximate do you begin to hear more clearly the distant: vehicles moving from afar, as if loading things in and out of a warehouse; a plane arcing overhead; and the persistent sounds of water and birds in great variety.
The more time you spend with Detour, the more apparent its continual movement and transformation become. It oscillates continually not just between the proximate and distant just mentioned, but with the sense that things are wheeling above you or shifting beneath. At length, the piece settles into relative tranquility, occasionally reminding you via a muffle or crack that you are not actually in this environment. But the aim of these gestures seems less to be manipulation than transfiguration of basic materials. The music lingers in an environment of whooshing, clicking, and stamping over the lengthy middle section. And then, in its final third, the piece reveals a steady whirring that grows to overtake that distant chorus of vehicles and those nearer voices of clicks and birds. The various elements move closer together, and as heavy rustles, nervous whirring, small clicks, and a hooting owl sort out their proximity, Detour seems suddenly to erupted, the sound of a hive excited to awaken and find itself in this strange sonic environment, which suddenly just ends. As many fascinating shifts and juxtapositions as there are here, there’s nothing mannered about the sound that unfolds, which is a tribute to the collaboration. And it’s also not willfully, wholly furtive music; there is much here that wants to be known, wants to be identified. In that, it’s marvelously human.
Brian Olewnick, Just Outside
Miura Peninsula, where much of this astonishing release was recorded, isn't all that far from Tokyo (the other recording site) but seems, from a perusal of Google maps, to have a decent amount of wooded, open areas. What hits the listener immediately is a real submergence in that environment, a sense of the surrounding air having an almost liquid quality; you're very conscious of it as a medium through which sound travels. But that's just one aspect. Tsunoda writes, "by recording various layers such as our directions of eyes, our thoughts, our orientation toward the place". Those things, the "orientation" of Tsunoda and Werder are somehow manifested in a truly striking manner, very personal, a real sense of existing, hyper-consciously in this place or, rather, in these multitudes of overlapping places as that's the other clearly apparent thing: the extraordinary weaving together of sounds from some vast set of experiences. It's quite difficult to isolate these elements. On the one hand, there's a strong sense of composition but, on the other, everything is so seamless that you can almost will yourself to believe the sounds were recorded as we hear them. For the first 40 minutes (out of 67) especially, there's a kind of commonality--not really the dynamics, which fluctuate a bit (though not drastically), more a subtle tone that permeates everything, uniting the parts in a way that's more or less subconscious. Like a palette that uses a range of colors, yet one in which all lie within a certain tonal spectrum (the photograph of leaves on the pine needles has something of this quality). Ridiculous to single out individual sounds but those deep rumbles (overhead jets?) are damned thrilling. That's another thing: the elements, essentially, are nothing you haven't heard before: birds (albeit likely different species than you've previously encountered--very beautiful), water, airplanes, scratching leaves, wind, much more. But their organization, the loving way they're arrayed and interwoven is breathtaking.
A bit past the 40-minute mark, there's a clear fade-out of the activity above and a shift into a different zone--perhaps it's simply going from the Miura Peninsula into Tokyo (the detour?). A strong, somewhat harsh electrical buzz is the main element, sounding like an exposed wire-box on a utility pole. There are still birds, but the ambiance is much more urban, the background hum of traffic seems to be present. It's more disquieting, something that, as much as I enjoyed wallowing in the fantasia of the opening section, I also appreciate greatly as, among other things, a kind of tonic, an appraisal of another reality just as (more?) real and holding a different type of fascination. Superficially, this section is a more gray and monotonous (the buzz doesn't quit), but listening below the veneer agains provides an abundance of activity, like looking below the surface of a pond. There's a gradual increase in intensity right at the end at which point, unlike the previous section's fade, the sounds abruptly and startlingly cease, just snap shut.
Field recordings? Well, yes, but much, much more. A stunning construction and a fantastic recording, seemingly endless layers of depth and ways to listen.