Each member a practiced pointillist, the Masashi Harada Trio is perhaps an archetypal abstractionist aggregate. Bhob Rainey and Michael Bullock are veterans of the Boston improv scene and as such routinely traffic in the impressionist currencies Harada also seems to value. The music on this disc is a maze of sonic corridors and trap doors. Harada’s ‘kit’ seems to comprise anything and everything within reach. Bells, chains, shakers and unknown objects all make it into the oblique orbit, not to mention the expected sticks, brushes and mallets. Bullock’s approach to his bass is equally percussive with strings, bridge and body all falling under the patter of his fingers and palms. Rainey’s curved horn speaks in tempered tongues using a language of whirring microtones and stunted breath sounds.
Distinguishing tracks based on titles becomes something of peripheral pursuit and the idea that these pieces are the result of Harada’s compositional pen (he is credited as composer on the disc sleeve) seems somewhat absurdist. Harada calls the process ‘activation’ in his accompanying notes, but though he may be cueing the action from behind his kit the interplay that results definitely sounds collectively improvised. “Pacham” is a perfect encapsulation of the aesthetic. Marital press rolls, scraped cymbals, hummingbird bass drones, Harada’s groaning voice, and rash of silences- all feed into the unfolding panorama. Rainey sounds alternately like a perforated tin harmonica and broken slide whistle on “Elastic sympathy” spitting fractionary notes threaded with grunted vocalizations. Harada’s traps boil and ferment beneath spiced the odd interjection from Bullock. The deceptively titled “Scream” starts almost imperceptibly and rarely rises above a whisper. “Final Blast” hits with a roundhouse punch of trip hammer percussion, craggy arco bass and Gordian saxophone articulations closing the sonic book with a suitably ambiguous run-on sentence.
All told, the disc ambles forward for over an hour, but the music remains free of artifice or repetition. Harada’s drumming in concert with the equally stubborn styles of his partners’, makes for a style of trio interplay that is at once obstinate and all encompassing. The sounds are steeped in the element of surprise, the central ingredient in any sort of improvisation and as such any need for safe reference points is quickly subsumed by the novelty of the sounds themselves.
CIMP on the web: http://www.cadencebuilding.com
Personnel: Masashi Harada- percussion, voice; Bhob Rainey- reeds; Mike Bullock- bass. Recorded: August 23 & 24, 2000, Rossie, NY.