Review: Cristián Alvear + Makoto Oshiro + Shinjiro Yamaguchi + Hiroyuki Ura – Lucky Names

There’s something helpless about that electronic metronome pip on opening track, “Repeat And Memory”. For large stretches of the piece, it seems to be measuring duration for its own sake, disobeyed by the sporadic rumble of passing traffic, unaligned to the four musicians as they shuffle and cough in their state of preparatory stillness. And then suddenly, a few sounds enter on cue. A harsh extended beep heralds the reciting of spoken passages. For a moment, this musical organisation gifts the metronome purpose and value, providing a centre of gravity for elements outside itself. Promptly it is gone, and the pip resumes its state of patient futility, waiting for the other sounds to return, assured that it is not in fact counting its own solitary path through time, but that it is measuring the unfulfilled in-between. What if those other sounds never come back? Like a lighthouse in the dark, what use is the beam if there are no ships to see it?

Similarly, the half-hour “Sin Título #18” is an alternation between something and preparing for something: passages of rattling and buzzing and scrubbing, followed by the discreet shuffle of material (not “silence”, but the stir of anticipatory activity), before resuming the continuous flurries of noise. This is a very human enactment of binary behaviour. The communal stops and starts are often rough, with each player landing somewhere just outside their cue, while the stretches of quiet are bedecked with the immutable clattering of limbs and objects, stained in a tension that falls short of the spotless neutrality of silence. With the sudden bangs and microphone hisses of the title track completing the set, the release becomes a thorough exploration of how humans can’t help but soil the musical score to which they adhere, too clumsy and ill-defined to follow the instructions to the letter, but making wonderfully unpredictable patterns as execution dribbles beyond the rigid boundaries of intent, producing sound even when the metronome explicitly instructs otherwise.