Haino O'Rourke Ambarchi - "invited in pracically drawn in by something..." (Imikuzushi)
Like the meme says, punctuation saves lives; likewise, crediting order clues you to process. The alphabetical name order on this trio’s first album, Tina Formosa, implied a non-hierarchical collaboration, and the sound-blending they sustained during that record’s instrumental passages bore this out. But let’s face it -- anytime Keiji Haino sings, he’s king, and he’s definitely first among equals throughout Imikuzushi.
The trio’s third annual collaboration is, once more, excerpted from a live performance in Japan. But instead of prepared pianos and electronics, they used the primary colors of rock: guitar, bass and drums. And while any combo that lets Haino’s sobbing, roaring, terrifying voice into the mix can never be just a rock band, these guys rock out quite formidably.
Whether your favorite power trio is the Minutemen or ZZ Top, part of what makes ’em great is their ability to simultaneously exploit the format’s simplicity and transcend its limitations. These guys do both. Each knows exactly what is required of his instrument. O’Rourke’s bass is often massive and monolithic; he spends most of the first piece – entitled “still unable to throw off that teaching a heart left abandoned unable to get inside that empty space nerves freezing that unconcealed sadness I am still unable to fully embrace” -- pounding out one note with unwavering precision and absolute brutality. But he also delivers gently exquisite counterpoint to Haino’s intricate, almost harpsichord-like guitar on the third piece, “invited in practically drawn in by something facing the exit of this hiding place who is it? that went in coming around again the same as before who is it?” Ambarchi’s drumming veers between precise beats and big clouds of cymbal smashing, but it’s always propulsive, and his shifts of attack exercise the same mastery of long-form dynamics as his recent, rigorously constructed solo album, Audience Of One.
O’Rourke and Ambarchi don’t always play it straight, though. Much of the enormous tension on “still unable…” comes from their careful shifts in and out of synch, which they manage and sustain with exacting discipline. And if you’ve been waiting for Haino to get his rock-god ya-yas out, you’re in luck here; there are plenty of stark, single-note solos blowing through this joint like dust devils down a ghost town’s widest thoroughfare. Turn the corner and they blossom into chords that contain orchestras. Whether it’s the djinn unleashed by massive volume or simply judicious marshaling of pedals, Haino usually seems to have several things happening at once inside every down stroke. He commands everything about him like some thunderbolt-wielding god atop a mountain, abetted by pitiless angels who know that their power comes from keeping him at the peak.