Review: Xambuca – カムィ

Given the album’s underlying cause, it’s most appropriate thatカムィ should avoid direct imitation of the Ainu traditions; after all, what better way to demean a call for cultural preservation than to offer up a botched sonic reflection of the culture itself? Rather, the record views Ainu culture with a respectfully distant fascination – its influence is drawn and then implanted into something completely new, with ancient, spiritually resonant timbres plucked and remolded into strands of electronic sound.

My own knowledge of the Ainu people is minimal, and only a few muffled recordings of the Mukkuri (which boings and phases in a manner similar to the jew’s harp) give me any indication as to the form their musical traditions take. Xambuca’s own interpretation of the Mukkuri sends it pinging between left and right speakers, as though converting its timbral elasticity into actual motion – it ripples and slows, rising upward and bubbling back down, shimmying across the stereo field and seemingly rebounding off the inside of my own skull. The tone becomes increasingly intriguing under repetition, adopting an almost meditative, drone-like quality in the moments running up to the fadeout.

Elsewhere, held synthesizer notes lurk within blurs of reverb, unwinding through sequences without return, maneuvering turns with the slinking confidence of a snake effortlessly navigating a maze. Electronic percussion stutters and buzzes as little pockets of synthesized sound one after the other, gently pattering beats that perhaps allude to the gentle impact of palms against drum skins. During “ニㇱ” things even get decidedly psychedelic, cycling gently through a bassline that cycles like a shimmering, clear whirlpool. There’s something slightly slick and superficial about many of the sounds used here; a will to keep Xambuca’s efforts distinct from the organic energy running through the Ainu’s own music, maintaining spiritual allure within those mysterious ribbons of melody while transposing it into the dramatic contrast of 21st Century sound.