PolytopiaMari Kimura


Bridge Records

Variants, Jean-Claude Risset
Toccata, Conlon Nancarrow
Polytopia, Mari Kimura
GuitarBotana, Mari Kimura
The Old Rose Reader, Frances White
ComeCryWithMe, Milica Paranosic
Submarine, Robert Rowe
Axon, Tania Leí³n

I love this disc. Mari Kimura is a superb violinist, a compelling composer, and a Max/MSP junkie. If I wasn’t already married…

This CD features pieces for violin and electronics that runs the gamut of possibilities. Ms. Kimura performs against an “old-school” tape part, with live computer manipulation, and with musical robots. The aesthetics on the disc are just as varied as the electrical manipulations. Ms. Kimura’s performances, however, do not change. They are always musical, dynamic, thoroughly engaging, and captivating. I love this disc.

The CD opens with Jean-Claude Risset’s Variants, which uses live signal processing. The violin part is angular, hectic, and playful. The processing (revised in 2006 from the 1994 version) is seamlessly integrated to the gestures and never grows stale. The violin sound takes on 4th, 5th, and 6th dimensions through the ethereal chorusing effects. The music is not about the violin, nor is it about the processing. The music is about both and it is always refreshing to hear a master composer who remembers that.

Toccata by Conlon Nancarrow, is a feature of the musical robot, and is the finest recording of this piece that I have ever heard. Ms. Kimura throws some serious smack down on the artificial piano. The rough and aggressive sound from these performers still sounds effortless and it creeps me out to think of that dichotomy.

The next two pieces are by Ms. Kimura herself. Polytopia is a stunning piece for violin and interactive computer. The opening processing shows that Ms. Kimura has learned all the right things from Mr. Risset. Going beyond that, though, Ms. Kimura takes us through a vibrant array of sound worlds and processing. These sound worlds are all built upon simple pitch-shifting and delay techniques which further displays Ms. Kimura’s creativity. GuitarBotana uses another musical robot, the GuitarBot. There is also a YouTube movie of Ms. Kimura playing this piece, but the audio leaves much to be desired. GuitarBotana is just as mind-blowing as the Nancarrow Toccata. Ms. Kimura puts herself in a slippery and mercurial landscape that would be torturous on most performers. Instead, since she made the map, she navigates the world without a single misstep.

Frances White’s The Old Rose Reader is a meditative and abstractly poetic work that juxtaposes a lyrical melody with fragmented readings about roses. The music is fascinating as the various sound objects hang in the air. At this point of the disc, the listener has been craving this kind of tender and serene music. Ms. White’s piece is perfectly programmed (in a computer and non-computer sense).

ComeCryWithMe, as one might expect, is an emotionally charged work. Milica Paranosic has created quite a compelling world. Ms. Kimura’s approach to the recording is quite innovative. She has improvised several different paths through the piece and then layered them on top of the emotionally direct soundscape created by the computer. The end result is visceral and haunting.

Robert Rowe’s Submarine is one of the most picturesque works on the disc. The signal processing seems tightly controlled while maintaining a healthy amount of spontaneity. This work also takes advantage of Ms. Kimura’s “subharmonic” technique in which she is able to play her G string an octave lower by some mystical bowing method. The growly low Gs are peppered throughout the CD but are most featured on this selection.

The final piece, Axon, by Tania Leí³n, reminds us that beat making is an integral part of the electronic music world. Ms. Kimura’s work on the piece is two-fold. Obviously she performs the dickens out of the thing. She also created the processing based on Ms. Leí³n’s musical descriptions. The end result is a free-for-all in the best possible way. Events emerge, beats struggle to start up, and energies get initiated and deflected. This teases us along and we never quite get the release that a full-blown beat track would provide, only enough hints to make us want more.

I love this disc. Did I already say that?

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