VA – Fukushima! Artists answer the call for beauty. (Music Review) Disc Two

This post is the second in a series of two looking at the double disc. For the first part of the review, please go here.  This double disc collection is inspired by a lecture given by Otomo Yoshihide.  The lecture can be found here and is well worth the reading.

Disc two is composed of seven different pieces, some complimentary, others stand outs of singular listening, all very beautiful and line with the overall premise established by the lecture, that beauty should always be included, even when we are afraid. Culture is not only about shock and reaction. It is not only about education. It is not only about fun, release and relief. It is all these things, and among them, it is the right to counteract a devastating reality with the right to dream.  Otomo is swift to add, one can’t justify living in an area contaminated by radiation with the right to dream – that is an abuse of the dream and the thinking faculties we have been given. However, including the safe zones around Fukushima, preserving the art and culture of the place, and allowing for it to have a future is part of the dream that must not be killed off in face of an overwhelming reality. In many ways the call for a cultural response is part of the balance against the political / scientific response as well as working with science and politics to create that balance. The tension between reality and the dream must always exist with neither side taking precedence over the other.


The second disc begins with a piece called ‘Counter’ by Berkhard Beins. Beins uses analog synthesizers to create a sound that literally creeps up on you. It’s a detached noise and yet it carries the weight of the personal. The sound increases almost like the radiation of the area, making its way toward and inside of those who still life there. It’s haunting, and holds little promise initially, seemingly filled with the secret sound of radiation and its devastation. That is until it takes a huge power load of a leap into a rush of silence and then a Geiger counter sound clicks over the top of more synth. This second half of the track is far more optimistic and once the high-pitched squeal enters the ear, a hopefulness has taken the place of the destitute.

The second track, performed by Mark Wastell and Jonathan McHugh is a piece titled ‘Eventide’.  It’s a haunting track that strangely feels imbued with the tensions that fill the landscape of Fukushima.  This pieces seems to be extracting the beauty from the fear.  Where ‘Counter’ might be coming from the landscape and imposing on the personality, ‘Eventide’ might be coming from the soul and imposing itself on the landscape. The sound here is less stark, and a reverb along side a tam tam vibes through the body as you listen.


Annette Krebs and Chris Abrahams give us a brief interlude simply titled ‘Duo’, where voice is used in blurts and splutters to counteract the synthy sounds that crack, whistle and pop behind. It’s a short piece, light but not delicate, and imbued with hope and promise. In a way, it’s almost humorous, particularly when posited against the earlier tracks.   Annette Krebs comes in again on track four, this time alone, to give a street recording of the anti-wall street demonstrations in front of the Reichstag in Berlin. It’s the perfect place for the sound of human voices to be posited. The noise is welcome and reminds us what the discs are all about. The human element has been very must present in the previous tracks and in disc one, however when the sound of humans are added at this juncture it brings community where previously there was isolation. Beautiful isolation, but isolation none the less.

Track five, a piece called ‘Fukushima for the time being’ is performed by a group called Mural.  Mural are Ingar Zach, Kim Myhr and Jim Denley doing a pole to pole collaboration that meets in the physical center which is virtually Fukushima. This is a stunning piece, ripe with sounds, fecund with promise, infused with hope. The music sounds very Japanese influenced as it spikes and slithers its way across a kind of time standing still in the moment when time passes. This piece is all about the feeling – at least for the listener it is. Its one of the strongest on the disc and one I kept going back to.


The other monumental piece at almost twenty-two minutes long is Greg Stuarts beautiful interpretation of Michael Pisaro’s ‘The Bell-Maker’.  The bells are light, not playful or melodic. Because of the sweet nature of bells, one is attracted to the light tricky energy they exude, although I wouldn’t call the sounds passive neither dismiss them as easy. The sounds trip and fall over themselves in a lovely tinkling mish mash of sound that can’t help but be exquisite, light and beautiful.

The second disc is rounded out with a track by Greg Kelley called’ Cylindrical Mirror’.  A creaking, shaking invitation to the listener to stare into the mirror of the soul and embrace all that Fukushima has to offer in terms of its balance of tragedy and hope, grief and courage, weakness and strength. These are strident sounds, begging for an engaged ear.  In some ways it is the difficult listening, but to end with a track such as this asks more what next and who we are in the matter of Fukushima than it does allow us for a passive listening experience.

All in all this is an exquisite album, and a beautiful addition to any collection.  Worth departing with hard earned dollars for the sound alone, despite the integrity and the harmony of the philosophical appeal.  The disc can be purchased here.