Toshimaru Nakamura - maruto (lossless)
Lossless AIFF (16bit/44.1kHz)
Using his no-input mixing board Toshimaru Nakamura, perhaps the ultimate Onkyo artist, spent two years creating this work, which is also the second release in the Erstsolo series.
For CD format, go to this page.
1. maruto (46:13)
(released August 26, 2011)
Toshimaru Nakamura: no-input mixing board
recorded by Toshimaru Nakamura in Tokyo, January 2-4, 2011
design by Yuko Zama
Brian Olewnick, Just Outside
In many ways, Nakamura's music has shifted rather decidedly over the past few years, say since his last recorded collaboration with Keith Rowe, "between". It became a bit less radical to these ears, more comfortable. Sometimes this worked well, other times it seemed a bit *too* cushy. Here, however, he's not only different but has finally (at least, from what I've heard) discovered a tough, deep, difficult-to-entirely-grasp new area, a very welcome development, more so in that solo outings haven't previously been his best friend.
The beginning of "Maruto" sets the stage. He leaps right in, no slow leaking of sounds, but the choice is odd, almost awkward yet moving. A series of staggering, mid-range buzzes that have a hollow feel, intermixed with softer scrubbings and high sine pitches. It's odd in that these 5 1/2 minutes are very different from anything that follows during the next 41 but instead of sounding out of place, they do seem to function as a somehow appropriate preamble. There's an echo of that strong tone in the next section, but it's more one layer out of several, only lasts a little while and then the piece reduces to the territory it will occupy for the remainder, an unsettling mix of hums, static, thin sines and super-low bass. It's almost queasiness-inducing and I say this without, I'm sure, getting the full effect of the bass tones, which I gather from various sources are both visceral and difficult to fully appreciate without benefit of an absurdly good sound system.
There's something morass-like about the music, much less airy and electric sounding than previous work. It's almost sluggish, though I mean that in a good way! Like water in a slowly moving swamp. It's extremely self-contained, diffident maybe. Nakamura reduces things down to a low, low simmer (again, allowing for subsonics beyond the reach of my speakers) and allows it to just pool there, eddying slowly. Something very exciting about that, very organic. The closing third or so of the disc is tough to describe--it's quite soft but with a good bit of activity, most sounds possessing a kind of burr, rotating about each other, knocking into one another, disappearing. Again, a pond surface with gentle, underlying currents, but with a film of algae, water striders, leaves, etc. is the image that lingers. The final minute or two is just a deep, low, low tone, still soft. That initial section, in retrospect, seems like a tumbling of liquid into this now quiescent pond.
A wonderful recording, one I found challenging in unusual ways, sliding in and out of my mental grasp, offering a lot to contemplate for a long while to come, I suspect.
Matthew Horne, Tiny Mix Tapes
It perplexes me how frequently people reject Toshimaru Nakamura’s music solely due to its piercing tones. Am I wired differently? Or perhaps there’s something wrong with their sound system? While I personally enjoy Nakamura’s extreme frequencies, I also experience a profound physical resonance with his music that goes beyond these superficial elements, akin to Jon Abbey’s (proprietor of erstwhile records) experiences:
"One thing I guess I will say is that Toshi in general often uses a lot of extreme frequencies in every direction, some that most people cannot hear, but to me they’re often physically affecting, not to my ears as much as my whole body. I had a stretch where I had to struggle not to pass out when seeing him live, he would often just hit (and hold?) a frequency that I guess would trigger some kind of ‘off’ switch in me, and if I wasn’t a bit on guard for it, it could knock me out."
Starting at the eight-minute mark on the 46-odd-minute long maruto — Nakamura’s 13th release for erstwhile — there is an intense, trans-aural sensation; sound becomes intertwined with every other sense, and in this singularity arises a fundamentally physical reaction to maruto. In this duration, there is an incredible fullness to Nakamura’s no-input mixer, a density that envelops tones likely not even heard by my damaged hearing. The first time through, the throbs of this segment radiated throughout my body — a shiver down my spine, tingles in my fingertips, and arrested feet. It was a near-catatonic state, during which only what I was hearing seemed to matter.
This leaves me in awe of the most persistent (pernicious) criticism of eai/post-eai/onkyo/whatever: that it lacks a human component, sounding detached from the traditional emotional clichés found within most other music. Two points: (a) It’s lame if, in order to appreciate sound, music must be entangled with overt emotional gestures like love, puppy kisses, or the sensual embrace of a sleek guitar (I’m sad because my girlfriend just broke up with me; we just won the Superbowl!; that summer feeling, etc.); (b) Toshimaru Nakamura has it all anyway! I feel everything when I listen to maruto. To be more precise, the music itself is disengaged from emotion, maybe giving some credence to sentimental critics. However, in this nihility, the listener can project herself and her feelings onto the sound, reverberating against maruto’s purely aural qualities to generate an elevated experience.
And the medium through which one hears Nakamura does seem to matter. As Abbey said of maruto, “It’s especially system-specific, I’m finding it harder than usual to piece together perceptions from the three systems I’ve heard it on.” My headphone listens are claustrophobic, ensconced within myself, whereas each stereo listen permits maruto to orbit around me, never sucking me into its singularity. But maruto can’t be state-dependent; the heart pressure I feel cannot be subjective. The act of properly listening to maruto seems as fundamental as auscultation: attentively mixing pure sound devoid of anything but itself with all of oneself.