Kira Kira: Bright Force

Dan McClenaghan By

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The label "music" may be too confining for these sounds. Let us call it an ear-opening sonic experience. That's what pianist Satoko Fujii, with her new group, Kira Kira, has created with a compelling recording called Bright Force.

In the year 2018, every review of Fujii's output will include a prelude describing her decision to release an album per month, in celebration of her sixtieth birthday. She does know how to throw a dynamic and distinctive celebration.

January's offering, Solo (Libra Records), was her first installment. It is a solo piano outing that is one of her finest—if not the finest—effort of a career that includes over eighty recordings since Something About Water (Libra Records, 1997), a piano duet set with her mentor, Paul Bley.

Atody Man (Libra Records), by her Kaze group followed, then the March installment, Ninety-Nine Years (Libra Records), from her Orchestra Berlin arrived. She persists. Music pours out of her in an unceasing torrent.

Bright Force is 2018's month of April installment. It is a quartet outing featuring her constant musical/life partner, trumpeter Natsuki Tamura, and newcomers—to the Fujii world—Australian keyboardist Alister Spence and Japanese drummer Ittetsu Takemura. This new ensemble shapes a surreal world of sound, brash and calamitous on the first two tunes—the Spence-penned "Because of the Sun" and Tamura's "Nat 4"—before shifting into the molding of a time-stands-still soundscape on Fujii's "Luna Lionfish," an extended, three-part suite that whispers into existence like a gentle breeze, coaxing small, ringing percussions on a wind chime suspended in an alien world—the chiming bars hanging in a different gravitational pull, responding to solar winds, sound waves traveling through a thicker atmosphere. A subtle shift then occurs. Electro washes sweep in softly, accompanied by subterranean groans and bird chatter. Whether the soundscape comes from Spence's effects pedals or his "preparations," from Natsuki Tamura's extended techniques on trumpet, or Fujii's inside-the piano-ministrations is unclear. It's probably a combination of those sources. And throw in some pretty acoustic piano interludes, too.

"Luna Lionfish"'s stark and eerie thirty-six minutes plays out as some of Fujii's most provocative and riveting music.

In spite of her extensive and adventurous discography, and her numerous ensemble configurations, Satoko Fujii's use of electronics in her artistry has yet to be fully explored. An example of a rare exception to this generalization is Aspiration (Libra Records, 2017), with laptop-ist Ikue Mori sitting in, adding her electronic magic to Fujii's concepts. And now we have Bright Force. It's like a door thrown open to another dimension.

Track Listing: Because Of The Sun; Nat 4; Luna Lionfish: Luna Lionfish 1; Luna Lionfish 2: Luna Lionfish 3.

Personnel: Satoko Fujii: piano; Natsuki Tamura: trumpet; Alister Spence: Rhodes electric piano, effects pedals, preparations; Ittetsu Takemura: drums.

Title: Bright Force | Year Released: 2018 | Record Label: Libra Records

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