Live: Multipletap @ Cafe Oto in London, 23/02/2014


Multipletap awakes gradually, lurching into life with what sounds like a 1980s computer malfunctioning on start up – a hard drive stalling through catalogues of digitised information, with extended beeps whose prolonged tones spell error in cyber vowel. Takahiro Kawaguchi and Kou Katsuyoshi seem to gather up the excitable tension in the room and then let it back in again in small, stifled bursts – Kawaguchi casts wind-up toys nonchalantly into a metal bowl, amplifying their mechanism ticks until they tap against my skull as an escalating agitation, while white noise fails miserably in punching its way out of the speaker grill. The remainder of the set is more shrill but still contained: robot banshee wails, hot air softly circulating a boiler unit, fax machine protest popcorn exploding in a tin can. It ends as Kawaguchi stands up and forcefully shakes his table of objects, causing a chorus of rattling metallic earthquake.

Kamin Shirahata commences set number two with wordless acoustic song, propelled by a ferocious guitar jangle that evokes the movement of a ship bobbing over the sea. Miho Wakabayashi glides slowly between bold, expansive poses, arms arcing, bending into semi-circles. Suddenly, the set ruptures: Katsura Mouri carves the tune down the middle with a blunt girder of feedback that vibrates my jaw and neck, while Wakabayashi starts to suspend and twirl from a set of ropes hung off the Oto back wall, eerily composed and half asleep while the rest of the venue starts to feel like it’s collapsing around her. Before too long, she is naked from the waist up; more disturbing in her postures and gestures now, hands quivering as they drag hair across her face, while any remnants of acoustic fretwork become buried and unrecognisable under dirt.

Atsuhiro Ito also implements an intense visual, albeit of a different kind. The room falls under Ito’s sensory control: pitch black if not for his blazing fluorescent light, silent if not for the industrial, octaval whirrs that jolt out of his hands. Sound and visual flicker synaesthesically, and dynamically the experience is turbulent channel hop between polarising absolutes: the scorching inundation of everything – sound, light – followed by thin canyons of emptiness, during which ear drums and retinas re-heal. It sounds like a transformer’s joints seizing up at some points, with whirrs of intention carried by the scream of unoiled metallic friction. I feel like I’m in the barrel of a rapid-fire laser gun as shots fly over me in juddering pulses.




What follows is the evening’s most excruciating 20 minutes, and that’s largely down to the presence of JUNKO. Her voice sounds like an alto saxophone stabbed in the throat; insistent, a babbling staccato punctuated with long wails of what sounds like tiny birds dying in a fire. Either side of her, miniature jackhammers pummel through a barrel of coins (Makoto Oshiro) and these mysterious, hollow booms of low frequency – like the amplified sounds of Jupiter’s orbit – plant themselves in the pit of my stomach (Ken Ikeda). The piece hovers in one location, and if I close my eyes, I’m watching road workers evict terrified bats from their cave, with the whole thing played back on an analogue television that tumbles out of signal. For me it’s the most agonising experience of the night, and it’s also a perversely wonderful thing.

Just as I feel myself floating through the Oto ceiling, carried out by increasingly perverse mental pictures, Yumiko Tanaka tugs me back in again. Her voice is meditative and yet waning, like a jagged and uneven bird flight; the jaunt and wobble of an injured wing, rasping into a falsetto that borders on chicken cluck, bending her shamisen out of shape until the strings rattle against the body in drunk tunings. At points, it feels like a wounded deconstruction of blues music, bleeding over the reality of scraped metal on wood, or coarse bow splintering against strings. Yet there’s an optimism and a playfulness too – a jubilation in brokenness, perhaps a whiff of punk confidence. The set finishes at a total exasperation point, announced by an abrupt yelp of “FINISH!” by Tanaka.

Soon enough, I feel Ko Ishikawa’s beautiful cycle of tones drawing out the turbulence like ear candles, taking strange inversed breaths that climax at full force, accumulating density and texture in their contact with the open air. Is he breathing into it? Drinking from it? The instrument is a strange sort of mouth organ – a cluster of vertical bamboo pipes, cupped in both hands – and there’s something spiritually cyclical about Ishikawa’s performance; a circumvention of spiritual energy that seeps into the room and travels back through his mouth. The cluster of sound that billows out is beautiful; hazy chimney smoke, wafting upward and dissipating…there are notes between notes, and notes in between those. My mental images end up closely resembling the instrument itself, with tightly compacted congregations of tone forming gorgeously uneven upward structures. I don’t remember the piece beginning, and as it floats and rotates in prolonged hesitation, as a hovering, baited breath, I can’t envisage how it will end. I start to cling to the sound, and I start to fear what may happen when it disappears.

I barely have time to think about it, as lasers have started exploding in the smoke around me. Doravideo dips and wobbles as though he’s trying to control a loose hose (either that or he’s being electrocuted by an unseen wire), as his sampler fires chopped up squares of sound in all directions at once in the form of a bleeping, grinding, 21st Century gibberish. Meanwhile, PAINJERK slams down a limping electronic rhythm that is quickly torn out of the earth by the white noise cyclone that consumes it. The noise is deep and hits me at stomach height; a consistent feedback arranged in a rubik’s cube of calculation bloops and the sound of a toy being overcharged, laying a thin, jagged spread of texture atop the low frequency rumble. The voltage is thick and dirty.

“Tonight has been a very artistic night. More so than last night,” declares Makoto Kawabata. “Finally, the extreme of noise is coming!” It’s a welcome warning, as the guitars of Kawabata and JOJO Hiroshige start wrestling in ribbons of virtuoso solo – spiky, crumpled, whammy bars sticking out like flailed legs. Both members swerve into eachother, fighting to be heard and thus pushing the piece to great intensities. By halfway through I’ve totally lost all sense of dynamic distinction, and have fallen numb to the concept of musicianship. There is only this. As if aware of the mesmerisation that seems to have swept the room, Kawabata closes by slamming his guitar into the venue floor until it breaks, fracturing the hypnosis like a block of wood.

Tetuzi Akiyama and Toshimaru Nakamura are without T.Mikawa tonight – from what I could make out from Akiyama’s explanation, he had to be rushed off to the doctor’s for an issue with his eye – so his two collaborators for the evening plough on regardless. Debris falls out onto the floor, starting and stopping; beams shine down alleyways, noise pixelates and drops out as if through a split-second powercut. I imagine that those micro-fragments of quiet are the moments that T.Mikawa may have pounced into; without him, the dynamic walls are verticle and abrupt, with Akiyama’s on/off guitar twangs pushing back against gross depictions of electrified birdsong and contorted harmonica. The end product is surprisingly warm, vibratory in an organic sense – a product of body tremor, muscle spasm, the coughs and convulses of electrolyte pulse. Low frequencies rip through the higher pitches as though someone has just unzipped them, and my evening concludes with something strangely reminiscent of bagpipes – space bagpipes, burning up as they hurtle through the atmosphere.

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