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Toshimaru Nakamura and John Butcher – Dusted Machinery


Toshimaru Nakamura & John Butcher - Dusted MachineryA couple of years ago a friend took me to Café Oto to see Londoners John Butcher and John Edwards teaming up with US guitarist Elliot Sharp. Not knowing what to expect, I was amazed by the gig, especially learning that Sharp never met the two others before, not to mention never played with them. This ended up being one of the best improv gigs I had seen for years. The interplay and attitude towards the music and each other was some of the things that moved me the most, as I recall. Later it came as no surprise having learned that Butcher has been very much sought after as a session musician or collaborator.

So getting a CD in the mailbox consisting of Butcher teaming up with Toshimaru Nakamura on a no-input mixing board really triggered my curiosity. Nakamura is a leading improviser in electronic music, and has in later years specialized himself in using the no-input mixer, and trying to control sound in such a manner has always fascinated me. If someone knows how difficult it really is, you should be equally fascinated by the instrumentation here, being only mixing board by Nakamura and soprano, tenor and feedback (!) sax from Butcher; and I was right thinking the soundscapes would be quite minimal.

So, what does it sound like? Dusted Machinery is mostly low in volume, subtle, barely listenable sounds from both. Prickling, squeaking, sometimes sounding like alarms from my electrical system, in combination with small whistling sounds, or just wind blowing. On a few occasions there are louder and more rumbling sounds, but it is really sparse in that regard. What is remarkable is the (at least what appears to be) amount of control coming from the mixing board, which means Nakamura is twisting the knobs in very small, controlled movements.

Yes, obviously some people would never describe such exploration of sounds as music, but for me such sounds as the two present could serve two functions, both as meditative listening experiences, but in fact also as background music when doing my office chores. Even though they sound like metal objects or radios, or even electronic malfunctioning devices (which would have been equally valid as listening experiences, even so), melting in with whispers or blows, nothing is ever ear-splitting or piercing in such a way that hands move fast to the master volume (well, I didn’t ask the neighbour what he was thinking). In my ears this work also comes across as inspired and focused, well done togetherness, and well worth the listen.

-Ronny Wærnes-

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