YUI ONODERA & STEPHEN VITIELLOQuiver
PHYSICAL | CD
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“Quiver” continues our subseries of cerebral abstract electronic minimalism after Triac’s “In A Room” and Hanno Leichtmann’s “Minimal Studies”.
Yui Onodera is a musician and composer based in Tokyo, Japan. After studying music and architecture, he founded the Critical Path. In terms of environmental functions and spacial relationships of sound, he employs materials from various sources ranging from field recordings, electronics, and voices, to various musical instruments, for process-based, restrained electro-acoustic, experimental and ambient pieces.
Electronic musician and sound artist Stephen Vitiello transforms incidental atmospheric noises into mesmerizing soundscapes that alter our perception of the surrounding environment. He has composed music for independent films, experimental video projects and art installations, collaborating with such artists as Nam June Paik, Tony Oursler and Dara Birnbaum. In 1999 he was awarded a studio for six months on the 91st floor of the World Trade Center’s Tower One, where he recorded the cracking noises of the building swaying under the stress of the winds after Hurricane Floyd. As an installation artist, he is particularly interested in the physical aspect of sound and its potential to define the form and atmosphere of a spatial environment.
The word Quiver can speak to an emotional state - “a slight trembling movement or sound”. A quiver is also the word for a kind of container, used for holding arrows, bolts, or darts. They employed a vast array of sound sources for meticulous processing on their computers from electric violins, acoustic and electric guitars, modular synthesizer to toy piano and field recordings. They built music rich with textures, loops, strange structures blurring the lines between foreground and background sounds thus making a complex and mysterious, generous and surprising music. These compositions by Onodera and Vitiello are layered with possibility and will mean something different to each listener.
I’ve been a fan of Yui Onodera’s music for some time, but this album surprised me. Rather than his usual stately drones and glacial fluttering, Onodera’s collaboration with New York sound artist Stephen Vitiello is… a pop album? Yes, I think so. The music is tuneful and upbeat, with even the more low-key songs having a melodic element at the forefront. Some of Vitiello’s previous work has moved in this direction, but “Quiver” puts accessibility in the forefront. I enjoyed it very much! Some tracks, such as “Quiver 4” (none of the songs have real titles), feature a skeletal guitar lightly applying Vini Reilly-esque melodic lines over a bedrock of electronic skitter and sometimes a steady (though understated) anchoring pulse. “Quiver 6” is rather lovely, with something sounding like moving water burbling next to a synthetic chorus and dreamlike shoegaze guitar wash that would appeal to fans of Chris Herbert, Cheihei Hatakeyama or even recent 12k releases. After listening through a couple of times, it occurred to me that this collaboration seems as natural and complete as an album by a full-time “band” might be… so I hope these guys pursue the duo further! I wouldn’t mind more of this to spin as the soundtrack to my pleasantly groggy weekend mornings.
Was bei "Disturbio" nur ein Stichwort ist, wird bei YUI ONODERA & STEPHEN VITIELLO zur Überschrift: Quiver (mikroton cd 64). Für den Zusammenklang von Gitarren, Modularsynthie, Toy Piano, E-Violine, Feldaufnahmen. Wobei einen hier und da im Flirren und Plinken einer Gitarre Anflüge von Melodik streifen, in dudeligem und vibrierend pochendem Tempo Ansätze von Grooviness. Für Folktronic freilich ist dieses zittrige Fiebern zu schnell, zu verzischt und überrauscht, zu aufgedreht. Kommt Sand ins Getriebe, wird es knarriger, angeraut und angedunkelt. Zum Chillen ist da zu viel perkussiv aufgestörter Betrieb, und das Gewese im brummigen Halbdunkel mutet trotz der Gitarrenfünkchen leicht ominös an. Ein Baby quäkt, aber gleich quivert und wuppt es wieder mit pulsendem Schub. In einem bebenden und zischenden Flow klimpert Piano, knarzt Draht, krachen Türen, im nächsten gluckert Wasser zu träumerisch schimmernder Gitarre und metalloidem Gefunkel. 'Quiver #7' dreht sich funkelig und bedröhnt rückwärts, '#8' loopt mit dunklem Knoten und perkussiven Akzenten, dass es nicht nur zittert und bebt, sondern flimmert.
While once a startling, exciting reaction to Serialism and avant-garde experimentation in the mid-20th Century, tonal minimalism is kind of a novelty / cheese and wine party topic in 2018. This approach has become so pedestrian, easily realized, and predictable that you can essentially make it with an app — even Brian Eno stepped out from behind the curtain and made several of his own. Turn on a machine or grab a string quartet, set them on G major, slowly modulate to G minor over the course of 40 minutes, and you're set (and watch the crowds gather because people slightly more astute than your average bear seem to love it).*
If you suffer from the same triggers, just hang on through the first minutes of "Quiver #1." The work begins with a familiar, speedy pattern of looping bloop boop blip bloop bloop blip and fills out with a swelling counterpoint a few octaves down; sputtering guitar licks fill in the gaps, and we're somewhere near Christopher Willits' six-string-based explorations of reverb and space that produce the pop version of electroacoustic music.
Near 1:29, the mix does the aural equal of wringing a towel and nearly turns inside out. The piece falls into a swath of cut & paste glitches, production stutters, and missing frames à la Oval or The Books. Now the track vacillates as not entirely stable — and nowhere near pop — with the aforementioned minutia darting like tornado detritus; if you were to compare this music to a sphere — and it does visually invoke that image (also: Eight tracks named Quiver, eight planets...) — these thin, rhythmic grains swirling across the stereo field act as both instigator and cork to whatever is currently churning under the dome (divine creationism, bubbling swamp, microbial evolution, etc.).
The authors of Quiver, Tokyo's Yui Onodera on electric strings and found objects, New Yorker Stephen Vitiello on guitars, modular synth, and toy piano (he is the gentleman who once had a studio on the 91st floor of the World Trade Center) and New Jersey born noise maker Kenneth Kirschner, remain focused on realizing disparate moods with restrained tweaks to the same bionic ensemble. "Quiver #5" introduces a submerged vibraphone (toy piano?) into rumbling bass and creaking walls. "Quiver #7" is saturated with sustained guitar notes that, say, Daniel Lanois would pull out his tool belt; some works lean heavily on field recordings — either processed (lots of delay and simple things such as reverse) or exposed (i.e. the mono-syllabic, cheery toddler engaged in busy work at the end of "Quiver #3").
Listened to sequentially, Quiver is a soundtrack to a movie not made. I twice said aloud, "Why aren't there more film scores that walk this line of 1) harmonic convention 2) enough pull toward Spectral textures to create intrigue and inspire musicians to reach outside so-called consonance?" If anything, what I think about most is how this gorgeous, complicated album has made me put on the brakes and question my bias when reading the label "Minimalist" slapped on anything released after 1985. That's a significant win.
*I should say that I appreciate anything that disrupts monotony and is an insufferable prick to status quo, and Minimalism was a mission accomplished amidst the Schoenberg and Cage regurgitations. But we need more La Monte Youngs and less Einstein on the Beach. Have I offended everyone yet?