| Astral Travelling Unity - "Studio and Live"
(aRCHIVE) by Keith Boyd 1/12/07
How is it that the shape shifting Japanese freak underground can continually churn out one great project after another? Maybe it's pointless to ask this question. Maybe it's one of those outsiders looking in types of deals that misses the point worrying about how's when the real deal is the what. In this case the "what" is super group Astral Travelling Unity. And they are composed of such music giants as Hiroshi Hasegawa, Junzo Suzuki and features guest spots by Makoto Kawabata. The pedigree of these folks is impeccable. What they all bring to this disc is something unique and totally engrossing.
Being both a visual and auditory freak I feel the need to comment first on the packaging. The disc is put out by Slimm on his label Archive and is just a wonder to behold. The interior consists of two sheets (one of paper the other of a transparency) featuring the evocative and dreamy artwork of Miyuki Shimizu. The drawings are of wispy yet earthy female figures undulating in the landscape while their bodies become a mansion or house of many mansions to small wandering figures. The disc itself bears a print Slimm made from the surface of a CD he found when he was walking on the beach. Apparently the sea water had corroded and dyed the surface into the bruised and mottled pattern we see reproduced to great effect. The packaging of this disc is just beautifully rendered and gives you a clue as to the mysteries that lie within.
Composed of two long tracks the music is a study in space and dynamics. We spend a long time floating in the ether of space and vision. In these long passages the languid pace is underpinned with a shifting tension. Dynamics and hypnosis are achieved through texture and tonality. A new sound element seems to be constantly bubbling forth adding to and changing the overall piece. There is also a restrained quality that keeps pulling your ear in for a closer listen. This tranquility however doesn't last forever. The sound eventually gathers a full head of steam and lifts off in a screeching fury of skronk and buzz. The power of this lift off made all the more astounding for the shimmery float that preceded it. My only hope for this release is that it's not just a one off project. I think that this lineup shows a true mastery of approach and sound that warrants further exploration. Alas, that probably is the case. I should probably take comfort in the fact that while Astral Travelling Unity won't exist again, there will be countless reshufflings of the same deck of musicians creating yet more totally engrossing and beautiful music.