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Gato Libre: Strange Village

Dan McClenaghan By

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On a blindfold test, with Gato Libre's Strange Village drifting from the speakers, not in a thousand guesses would I have identified the players. The sound is introspective and tranquil, with European folk music shadings—accordion, bass, and acoustic guitar floating behind a relaxed, round-toned trumpet. It's about as far from trumpeter Natsuki Tamura's sizzling electro-stew on Exit (NatSat Music, '04) as you'll find, but this is indeed him, joined on a gentle accoustic set by his wife and frequent musical collaborator, pianist Satoko Fujii, this time on accordion, along with bassist Norikatsu Koreyasu and guitarist Kazuhiko Tsumura.

The atmosphere is lyrical and mostly subdued. "Welcome Party," with an Eastern European celebratory mood, and "Dance," with an insistently shimmering rhythm and riveting accordion/guitar interplay, both turn up the heat. But it's a lilting, ephemeral heat, like bright sunshine on a late autumn day.

A lesson I have learned from listening to Tamura's discography is to expect the unexpected. From the radioactive Hada Hada (NatSat, '03) to the floating, soft-edged Ko Ko Ko Ke (NatSat, '04), he proves himself an artist completely unafraid of changing directions and taking risks.

With Strange Village Tamura and the quartet have crafted a gorgeously straightforward—albeit mysterious and slightly surreal—sound. This musical journey proves his most accessible set to date.

Track Listing: Morning Mist; Gentle Journey; Strange Village; Welcome Party; Dialogue; Dance; Dreaming a Lot; Then Normal Life; Journey Again; Wasteland of Peat

Personnel: Natsuki Tamura: trumpet; Kazuhiko Tsumura: guitar; Satoko Fujii: acordion; Norikatsu Koreyasu: bass.

Title: Strange Village | Year Released: 2005 | Record Label: Muzak

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