A hidden ritual where free improvised music of the west meets the sounds of Japanese temple festivities. We are transported from the recording location of an old retired train tunnel in Takedao, Hyogo, Japan (near Osaka) to a hot spring deep in the mountains. The twinkling hum of insects is an everpresent backdrop to the scene. Guests soak themselves in the natural hot waters from the earth, the moon shines brightly in the midnight sky, trees shake slowly, and out from a little shrine enters a small number robed insects who perform a dance to venerate the mingling of darkness and light.
As we sip hot tea or sake, the ceremony opens with Flirtations of the Moth and the Flame. Setting the mood of contemplation with shakuhachi and cardboard tube, the sounds are playful yet spacious. There is something mystical about the popping sound of a hand slapping the opening of a resonating tube chamber, while the deep and airy tones of the shakuhachi blow like cool mist on a lake.
Plates of fruits are passed round, as we move to The Ritual Dance for Changing the Candle inside the Moon. Sparse phrases on the recorder accompanied by junk percussion- ash tray, coffee can, and ukulele body. Are we in a tunnel, or the mountainside hot spring shrine?
Suddenly the mood changes slightly. My Little Crime, an Asian blues, comes into the scene, accompanied by ukulele and rocks, makes its point, and suddenly vanishes into the night.
In The Beat of Hearts in the Bee Hive, a duo plays various drum and junk percussion, with a little string sound thrown in. A tribal pattern with a latent power emanating from the pounding heartbeat rhythm is embellished by insect wing flaps and metallic chirps
The Past Life of Ralph Famularo as a Mechanical Silver Beetle: Who is Ralph Famularo? I think he may be a spoken word artist living in Osaka... He also may be the reincarnation of a robo-insectoid. His previous life must have been spent crawling amongst barren crags of a vast open landscape, poking inquisitively and ponderously as suggested by the sustained tones of shakuhachi and ringing of steel chime balls.
Next, we have The Dance of the Mosquito Sages in Tribute to Dusk. Mosquito sages enter the scene. They are dressed in loose fitting white and purple robes with sashes tied neatly around their abdomens. They hover in a figure eight pattern in front of the paper lanterns as their dance is interpreted by a moth who conjures flickering tones from a recorder. Ukulele augments their buzzing wings.
I know the sound of an opening can very well, and I can easily imagine its tempting alcoholic contents, in this case the citrusy taste of chu-hi. The nectars envelop us all as slowly and steadily nature and man do their work, and the fermentation process unfolds with tiny magic bubbles. This is entitled, Releasing the Moon from the Plum Tree.
The final act is Dance for the Feast of Ghosts at the Moon Palace of the Enormous Black Dragonflies. As we part from the ritual, we are left with sombre, wailing cries from the recorder. The dance gathers momentum with play from the junk percussion. These black dragonflies are jolly creatures, although their appearance can be foreboding. In the end we all marvel at their elaborate and intricate festivities: the majesty of their garb, the splendor and perfection of their buildings, their smooth and heroic dance. the pristine beauty of the mountains beyond.
This is beautiful music with beautiful titles. It has subtle power to capture the imagination. Smouldering Door is Jerry Gordon (winds) and Charles-Eric Billard (percussive sounds).
Further discussion on this release and artist can be found HERE