Ikue Mori: Mysterious Soundscapes

Eyal Hareuveni By

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Laptop computer pioneer Ikue Mori is a musician with a vision. Mori began her career as an untutored drummer in the seminal no wave group DNA, than transformed herself into an improviser who juggles an array of interconnected drum-machines and samplers, and again into a laptop computer player who no longer bases her musical language on rhythmic conceptions.

She not only succeeded incorporating her highly distinctive, computerized soundscapes into a legitimate role in some of the most adventurous ensembles—John Zorn's Electric Masada; the ROVA Sax Quartet's Orkestrova; Dave Douglas' Witness and Freak In; her all-women collaborative ensemble, Mephista, with pianist Sylvie Courvoisier and percussionist Susie Ibarra (Black Narcissus, Tzadik, 2002 and Entomological Reflections, Tzadik, 2004); and her duo with electric harpist Zeena Parkins (Phantom Orchard, Mego, 2004).

But Mori also succeeded generating new textures from her computer that sound surprisingly organic and personal, far from the electronic drones or abstract blizzards of otherworldly pulsating soundscapes so common with musicians who are adding electronics to their musical vocabulary.

Ikue Mori

Myrninereset, part of Tzadik's Oracle women's series and Mori's second solo laptop release after Labyrinth (Tzadik, 2001), is her tribute to the English mysterious visionary artist Madge Gill (1882-1961), who, at age of 37, began to create art in a flurry of drawing activity that was guided by a spirit she called Myrninerest. Gill exhibited her work rarely during her lifetime and never sold any of it for fear of angering Myrninerest.

Mori's thirteen compositions offer dense and layered textures, rich with dark nuances and timbers that reflect Gill's tormented life. Mori's inquisitive approach to sound manages to deconstruct and reconstruct sounds that may (or may not) originate from such sources such as a disjointed electric cello, a broken mini-Casio keyboard, or a short-circuit electronic from-kit, but their computerized mutations transform them into totally fresh sounds. Myrninerest is an arresting soundtrack to the unique art of a troubled character.


Synapse is a collaborative trio of Japanese vocalist Haco (After Dinner, Hohaio), Aki Onda (a Japanese environmental composer now based in New York), and Mori, who was born in Tokyo, but has resided in New York since 1977. It's augmented by Japanese guitarist Kazuhisa Uchihashi (Altered States), a frequent collaborator of New York downtowners such as reed player Ned Rothenberg and vocalist Shelley Hirsch. All these idiosyncratic musicians have worked together and separately, back and forth from New York to Japan, recording Raw during 2003 and 2004.

Raw is a set of left-of-center pop songs based on Haco's lyrics, mostly sung in Japanese. Mori and Onda supply sunny electronic colors that surround Haco's dramatic vocal gestures (Haco also plays synthesizer), while Uchihashi adds some innovative guitar playing and manages to mix his guitar with the myriad of sound sources that the other three players deliver. Some songs are childish singalong gems, like the opener, "Moonshadow in Cuba"; others are quite ironic, like "Morning Song," which begins with processed industrialized rhythms, name-drops Mary Poppins, and ends in a meditative tone. Certainly not your typical pop songs, but with such creative musicians and such a free minded attitude, there is no reason to complain. Just open your ears; the rest of your body will follow.

Visit Ikue Mori, Haco, Aki Onda and Kazuhisa Uchihashi on the web.

Personnel and Track Listings


Personnel: Ikue Mori- Computer

Track Listing: Posession; Sigh; Conflict; Gem Palace; Take It Easy; Espresso Bound; Ice Palace; Minecat; Mental; Slips Away; Suspicion; Insomania; Calsh by Night


Personnel: Haco- Vocals, Synthesizer, Bird Flutterings, Howling Pot; Ikue Mori- Electronics; Aki Onda- Cassette Players, Electronics, Sampler and special guest Uchihashi Kazuhisa- guitar

Track Listing: Moonshadow In Cuba; Sopa Bubble; Red & Green; Morning Song; Mabataki; Howling Pot; White Dreams; Diamond Dust; Jumon; Mirror Room; Rappa


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