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Takagi Masakatsu - Opus Pia

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Artist: Takagi Masakatsu

Album: Opus Pia

Label: Carpark

Review date: Jul. 1, 2002

All of the sounds on Opus Pia were collected from piano and environmental recordings, then modified and recombined on Masakatsu's computer. The results are somewhat hypnotic, with swirling background sounds and pointillistic sonic elements. The title track opens the album with a 16-minute suite. If the CD didn't state that the origin of the sounds was piano, you'd probably never know. There are some hints, and some moments when the sounds are perhaps recognizably piano, but overall it sounds somewhat science-fictionesque. I like the fact that somehow it's evident that the sounds came from a recorded source, and weren't completely synthesized from nothing. I must admit that there are times when the track seems in danger of appearing random, but overall I am conscious of a flow that, if it is random, nonetheless ends up being successfully affecting.

This flow of almost-but-not-quite alien soundtrack follows through "re pia 1" and "re pia 2". The latter is a particularly soundscapish audio field, with a heavier background texture.

"everything came from here" is a nice combination of relatively untreated piano, with field recordings of children playing. The melancholy of the piano (like a nocturne) mixed with the sounds of play runs the risk of being overly sweet, but instead it definitely worked for me.

The album's centerpiece may be "harmony," a 27-minute excursion in sound, a "mixture of the natural sounds in where I'd ever been..." It's a fairly quiet collection of field recordings collaged into a sort of audio bus tour of the world. This sort of extra-musical recording often leaves me a bit cold, since a pure sound vacation isn't high on my list of activities, I'm afraid. There's enough going on here that there's no shortage of interesting sounds, but a lot of it's sort of like hanging out on the edge of a village market eavesdropping on people whose language you don't know. Kinda interesting, but not exactly riveting. There are musical interludes, combined with people calling out, water splashing, and other sounds, but it's still all a bit too much like being on a tour bus from which you can't disembark to join in on the fun.

The album closes with "and then...", a recombinant piece of treated and untreated piano with vocals and a collection of somewhat unidentifiable sounds. It's an intriguing blend of pretty piano, eerie synth-like effects, and distinctly physical, non-pretty sounds – not ugly sounds, just not the sort of sounds that one thinks of as being part of a beautiful song. This dichotomy keeps the song from being just a pretty piano-and-vocal piece.

Aside from my reservations about "harmony", I enjoyed this album. Its range from field recordings to piano to heavily chopped-and-edited piano provides enough variation to keep it interesting, but the use of the piano also lends it cohesion and almost a theme. As a late-night listen, Opus Pia is particularly effective -- some of the field recordings may make you look over your shoulder.

By Mason Jones

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