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Album Review

Futari (Satoko Fujii / Taiko Saito): Beyond


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Futari (Satoko Fujii / Taiko Saito): Beyond
Satoko Fujii has found a new sound. The prolific and always adventurous pianist-composer teams with vibraphonist Taiko Saito—tagging their duo Futari—for a beautifully surreal journey called Beyond.

"Futari" means 'two people" in Japanese. The two people involved connected in the early 2000s, in Berlin, when Saito was a student at the Berlin University of the Arts. A friendship strengthened when Fujii and her husband, trumpeter Natsuki Tamura, moved to Berlin in 2011, settling under the vibraphonist's wings in things cultural, logistical and language related. But the always busy Fujii didn't engage in a music making connection with Saito until 2017, when they performed together in the quartet called Puzzle, featuring percussive dancer Mizuki Wildenhahn, who appeared also on Fujii' 2018 recording Weave (Libra Records), in a band called Amu.

2019 found Fujii and Saito together in Japan, where they toured as a duo. After their fourth concert, they recorded Beyond.

Fujii's discography is vast. The sounds she makes range from the thunderously aggressive to the "way far out there" and abstract, to the pensively, delicately ruminatively lovely. Beyond leans to the last side of those descriptions. It is a quiet, inward, often otherworldly listening experience. The use of extended techniques on the parts of both artistsresult in a sound that might not be readily identified in places, on a blind listen, as "piano and vibraphone."

The opener, "Molecular," gives off a radioactive glow. Sparely-applied, flat-resonance piano notes surface, and an incandescent warble surges up from deep Earth, emitting a cavernous sustain. The bowing of vibraphone keys on "Todokanai Tegami" sounds like the songs of the whales, then the vibrations of the engine of a distance watercraft (Fujii's prepared piano), muted and oddly sustained in the cold liquidity, filters into the soundscape, leading into the pianist's more conventional music box trinklings that sparkle out of a wash of electronic-like vibraphone machinations.

The title tune creates the quietest of moods, like a soundtrack of cosmic rays captured in the stratosphere by the most sensitive of microphones; and "Mobius Loop" has a feeling of futuristic exotica, the vibraphone and piano squabbling with little (or no) extended techniques involved, a celebration of the players' virtuosic energies.

"Spectrum" closes the set with an eccentric solemnity, wrapping up a gorgeous and compelling collaborative effort resulting in the creations of sounds you've never heard before.

Track Listing

Molecular; Proliferation; Todokanai Tegami; Beyond; On the Road; Mizube; Ame No Ato; Mobius Loop; Spectrum.


Satoko Fujii: piano; Taiko Saito: vibraphone.

Album information

Title: Beyond | Year Released: 2021 | Record Label: Libra Records

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