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Makoto Kawabata - I'm Here Still Now (Live at La Chapelle)

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Artist: Makoto Kawabata

Album: I'm Here Still Now (Live at La Chapelle)

Label: Ochre

Review date: Sep. 25, 2003

Makoto Kawabata’s album train chugs along with a live performance recorded in Toulouse, France last year. As with many of his solo discs, Kawabata ignores the guitar furies of his Acid Mothers Temple, Mainliner, and Musica Transonic groups and focuses on cosmic drones and folk sounds. I’m Still Here Now (Live at La Chapelle) contains one 37-minute performance of the guru playing electric guitar and sarangi – a fretless stringed instrument associated with traditional Indian music.

Paper thin drones inhabit this performance. The set begins light and airy, almost flute-like, while voices and footsteps shuffle around the room. As the sound broadens and the loops multiply, it resembles a minimal version of an orchestra tuning. Suddenly the sarangi peels down and the layered tones subside. The string texture jumps out in comparison to the breeziness preceding. Kawabata builds loops of sarangi from a squeaky solo line to an exhilarating squabble. This wonderful density soon disperses and returns to slowly bowed, diffused drones.

After layering additional guitar washes, the piece moves into more sarangi with Kawabata bouncing, bowing, and sliding around the strings. He moves quickly but delicately across the instrument. Soon enough he returns to a slightly thicker variety of guitar tones, this time shaping them into ebbs and flows, surges and pauses. After a brief concentration on a single drone, he returns to these waves and then slowly ends the performance.

Compared with other solo outings, this type of drone work falls flat. While the string texture of the sarangi begs for more attention, the lack of substance in the guitar tones is surprising. They just sound too light and too airy. Even a group like Windy and Carl, who specialize in bright, sunny drones, fill out their sound with tactile low ends. Such enrapturing tones can also be heard on previous Kawabata solo records. Whether it was the performance or the recording, these particular sounds leave something to be desired.

By Jeff Seelbach

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