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Tetuzi Akiyama / Jozef van Wissem - Proletarian Drift

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Artist: Tetuzi Akiyama / Jozef van Wissem

Album: Proletarian Drift

Label: Bvhaast

Review date: Apr. 27, 2004

Tetuzi Akiyama’s guitar playing, with its spindly blues-tinged inflections and stifled silences, is without a doubt one of the more engaging performance approaches in contemporary improvisational music. He consistently manages to steer performances away from oblivious dissonant abstraction, denying his sessions the baggage of the usual ominous, sterility-tinted clichés. Akiyama has a sensitive range, able to indulge both in the moments of abandon and focus the improvisation with his dark, raspy melodies.

A duo, then, between Tetuzi Akiyama and Jozef van Wissem, a Dutch lutist with a history of somewhat academic forays into the 17th century music (which shouldn't be surprising, given his somewhat anachronistic instrument of choice), seems like an odd match. Perhaps it was prompted by Wissem’s recent duo with another fringe musician working with blues idioms, Gary Lucas. For better or for worse, however, Proletarian Drift is not remotely strange. The recording is of a strong, if conventional duo, perhaps weighted down by its lack of forcefulness. Wissem, seemingly not an experimenter in extended technique or electronic augmentations, more or less plays his lute in a traditional fashion. That is to say, it sounds like a more resonant acoustic guitar; its timbre is only slightly different. As Akiyama is playing an acoustic guitar, in the same tuning as the lute, there seems to be an easy interplay.

The straight-ahead performance on acoustic instruments seems to stifle varying approaches. There are no fulsome drones here. Both of the two improvisations on Proletarian Drift are low-key, and remain in a state of easy tranquility, as though recorded in a living room or a kitchen. Yet, the focus seems to be on tonal and rhythmic tension, rather than absolute sound. The first parts of both improvisations show Akiyama reaching for an intensely sparse, timbral emphasis - a decidedly cultural approach shared by his more immediate colleagues, such as Taku Sugimoto. Wissem, however, seems impatient with this blankness, and both improvisations reach a state of sweet, though matter-of-fact melodic interplay by the end. A more immediate comparison might be Derek Bailey’s Ballads record. Yet without the same conceptual approach or instrumental versatility, Proletarian Drift often comes across as a bit thin, lacking a certain malleability and nuance.

By Matt Wellins

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