Yoshi Wada – Lament For The Rise And Fall Of The Elephantine Crocodile (EM/Omega Point Records) by Keith Boyd 1.31.8
About a trillion records and CD’s, thousands of live performances and hundreds of my own various bands later I still find myself floored and amazed by music and it’s endless permutations. The ability of sound to lift us out of our everyday lives and shift our spirit around is (along with the redemptive power of love) perhaps one of the true beauties of being alive. Some how this collection of nerves and muscles and bones and blood and water takes hold of (or produces from within – ie. the voice) an instrument and by manipulating it produces vibrations. These vibrations are true alchemical tools that transform sadness into joy, anger into action, sentiment into love. They hit us all differently and that too is a measure of their magick. I can hear and groove off of Tuvan throat singing, field recordings of the tectonic plates shifting and even peyote rituals of the Mexican Indians that might leave you flat and reaching for the new Tim McGraw or Fallout Boy. Despite how many ways it has been done musicians still find new ways to produce, bend and arrange those vibrations. Some make the old new again. Some obliterate all rational thought. Some come to bury Caesar and others to praise him. The essential point still holds; there is always more room to explore sound.
I don’t want to imply that we need to try and enjoy or make space for everything that calls itself music in our lives. Heaven forbid I should find room in the mp3’s and CD for the likes of such pre-programmed pap as Hannah Montana or the latest American Idol mannequin. It’s more that by being open to music we are constantly in beginner’s mind and the joy that can bring. I feel that by making our ears and brains available to music we say yes to the hidden reserves of the universe and thereby open that current in our souls.
And so I bring you the strange case of Yoshi Wada. This recently re-issued disc (brought to us courtesy of the brave folks at EM records) is about as singular of a soundtrip as you are likely to take. On it Wada plays these handmade instruments based on Scottish bagpipes. They have this huge bellows that he shaped in to Crocodile forms that are filled with a pump. The pipe pitches are then controlled via a set of knobs and a keyboard. While the sound is very recognizably that of a bagpipe the microtones produced by the control system create fascinating overlaps of drone that startle as well as hypnotize. To accompany this there is the chant/singing that Wada lets loose with. Apparently these pieces were recorded in an empty indoor swimming pool in New York City and that natural echo and reverb adds so much to the piece to almost serve as another instrument.
The two long tracks are each just over a ½ hour in length and over the duration really travel to some weird places. At times as gentle and soothing as a nomad’s lullaby and then again grating in their insistency, these pieces are full of contradictions that keep your ear and mind fully engaged. The bagpipe piece at first seems to hover over some never to be realized conclusion. Your ear keeps waiting for the next octave to drop or a signal of some sort of resolution to appear. Once you leap this hurdle of programmed expectation however, your unease at these long tones is replaced with delight. You begin hearing the clusters of microtones blending together to make his monolith of sound and it’s sudden like that painting by Marcel Duchamp, “Nude Descending a Staircase No.2” in that you get every perspective and time frame at once. You are an omnipresent ear able to hear all musical notes simultaneously and thereby you comprehend the beauty of thw whole. It’s just that overwhelming.
So music can continually surprise. That’s one of the secrets of the universe folks. There I’ve given you the first alchemical key to unlock the cosmos. Quick! Rush out to your nearest BIG BOX store and DEMAND that they carry this CD. Believe me, after the blood and sweat clear away they will thank you.