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Natsuki Tamura Quartet: In The Tank

Dan McClenaghan By

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In a drifting and amorphous way, the sound on In The Tank feels as elemental as a delta blues; the opener, "Walking Squid," comes to life on a spare, tinny plucking of strings, like something you'd hear from Son House or Robert Johnson. Whether the plucking comes from a guitar or from Satoko Fujii reaching inside her piano to finger the strings (she's been known to employ the technique) matters not. The quartet consists of Natsuki Tamura on trumpet, Elliot Sharp on soprano sax and guitar, Takayuki Kato on guitar, and Fujii on piano. But much like some of Miles Davis' output in the late seventies (On the Corner comes immediately to mind) the question of exactly which instrument is making what sound hovers over the proceedings.

What a measured, finely interlocking set of sounds it is, especially considering this is a completely freely improvised performance (recorded in Japan in 2001). There aren't high or low points, no swoops or soarings; the atmosphere remains consistently contained throughout, even when the intensity level rises, as it does a couple of minutes in on the 22-minute "Crowing Crab." The ensemble stays in a tight formation.

Is this pure sound? Appealingly-structured noise? There are times that images of a computer-animated foundry or blacksmith shop come to mind, similar to what you encounter on the Jerry Granelli/Jeff Reilly set Iron Sky (Love Slave, '03). And through the interludes of rock structures, blues shadings, jazz moments, and classical electro sound washes, a feeling of underlying structure and detached watching-the events-from-above serenity remains.

It's best to suspend expectations here—that can be said for just about everything Tamura is involved in—and forget about analyzing or intellectualizing. Let it wash over you; let it seep into your pores.

Track Listing: Walking Squid, Flying Jellyfish, Sinking Shrimp, Crowing Crab

Personnel: Natsuki Tamura--trumpet; Elliot Sharp--soprano saxophone, guitar; Satoko Fujii--piano

Title: In The Tank | Year Released: 2005 | Record Label: Leo Lab


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