Ikue Mori / Satoko Fujii / Natsuki Tamura: Prickly Pear Cactus

Dan McClenaghan By

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Ikue Mori / Satoko Fujii / Natsuki Tamura: Prickly Pear Cactus
Musical collaboration is problematic in Covid-19 times. Rubbing elbows with fellow musicians can translate to positive test results. But the music must roll on. At least that is how electronics wizard/laptopist Ikue Mori, pianist Satoko Fujii and trumpeter Natsuki Tamura feel. Instead of getting together body and soul, the trio decided to swap sound files on the internet—Mori from her home base in New York, Fujii and Tamura from their household in Kobe, Japan.

So sounds flowed across the internet slipstream, across a continent and the Pacific Ocean, Fujii sending piano solos for Mori's augmentations, Mori letting her electronic sound files fly, Tamura adding trumpet parts, Fujii sending piano/trumpet duets Mori's way.

Coming to grips with the sound world these three artists create—shaped and molded in a long distance teamwork mode—is a bit of a challenge, one that is well worth the effort. Ikue Mori, Satoko Fujii and Natsuki Tamura present these collectively crafted sounds that have only tenuous parallels in the scope of what might be considered normal music. It is, indeed, abnormal music, beautiful in its strangeness and off-the-beaten path audacity.

"Alien" is a word that comes to mind on an initial listen. The piped-in music playing in the Trafalmadorian space-craft that just swooped in from deep space to check out this cloudy blue planet. But the Tralfamadore folks are peaceful. The music contains an angular serenity and patience one might expect from a higher civilization.

The title track opens the set with Mori's warbling, translucent electronics. Fujii adds a foreboding touch on her piano. Tamura makes un-trumpet-like sounds—squawks, hisses, deep sighs. It is an unsettling yet lovely soundscape. "Sweet Fish" is a Fujii/Mori duet—probably; they are listed as the composers, but Tamura has the ability to mimic the sounds of the most adept of electronicists. Whether he is sitting in here is up in the air. But no matter, it is an eerie and futuristic tone poem, Fujii's pensive piano absorbing the sonic caresses of Mori's laptop-crafted world.

"Mountain Stream" sounds like Trafalmadorian exotica, with electro bird calls and distant planet frog-like creature croakings, like something Arthur Lyman might have cooked up under the influence of extraterrestrial cruise ship journey, turning his artistic focus away from Polynesia to the shores of a green lagoon light years away.

The problems caused by the 2020 pandemic have resulted in a good deal of innovation, sending musicians unable to tour to the recording booths and home studios more often. Prickly Pear Cactus is a marvelous example of a solution to this problem.

Track Listing

Prickly Pear Cactus; Sweet Fish; Guerrilla Rain; Mountain Stream; Overnight Mushroom; Empty Factory; In the Water; Turning; Muddy Stream; Sign.


Ikue Mori: electronics; Satoko Fujii: piano; Natsuki Tamura: trumpet.

Album information

Title: Prickly Pear Cactus | Year Released: 2020 | Record Label: Libra Records

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