Review: Usva - S/T

coverThis record is a bleak day in winter. The spindly acoustic guitar of Lauri Hyvärinen sounds like a tree stripped back to its branches, all jagged and starved of colour. The bowed cymbals of Naoto Yamagishi cut through the room like a bitter wind, sending a penetrative chill shuddering through my ears. And then there’s the voice and woodwinds of Jone Takamäki — ranging from saxophones to traditional Japanese instruments such as the hocchiku and futujara — who places a shrill, withered life in the centre of the scene, with dissonances and faltered notes evoking the whimpers of the fatigued or wounded. There’s an overbearing sense of constriction and impotence. Sounds collapse like sentences cut short by the cold, crippled by the chill of emptiness that surrounds every sonic shape. Unanswered, the resonances vanish into nothing.

It’s a record that stays predominantly in the high frequencies, banished from the warmth of bass notes, forced to communicate through whines and squeaks of uncertainty. At times they harmonise at crooked frequencies, holding drones that press into one another, helplessly trying to generate heat from friction and shared body warmth — bowed cymbals and woodwind tones cluster in the high frequencies like elaborate chandeliers, holding shape for as long as they can fend off the cold. These glimmers of optimism never last for long. On occasion, the energy flips in the other direction as frustration starts to consume the atmosphere in the room; the trio start to unravel into groans of bitter complaint, rising until they start to press forcefully against the ceiling. Yet the anger always subsides, and the cold is always waiting to claim them again.