Mike Atkinson

Origamibiro – Shakkei

Posted in album reviews, LeftLion by Mike A on December 7, 2011

(Written for LeftLion magazine)

As any Japanese garden designer will tell you, shakkei refers to the principle of “borrowed scenery”, whereby elements of the external landscape are incorporated into a garden’s internal composition. An equivalent approach can be found in Origamibiro’s music, which adds electronically treated background effects to the trio’s playing, suggesting the rush of heavy rainfall, the rumbling of an approaching train, or the cheers of a large crowd. Even when these noises are absent, the music retains suggestions of specific environments.

This sensibility is amplified in live performances, in which sound effects are generated on stage – rustling camera film, a vintage typewriter, a flickering early animation device – and beamed onto video backdrops. Presumably, similar techniques have been used in the recording studio, but the lack of visual clues soon frees the listener from wondering about the “how”, as the ambient textures instead begin to cast their spell.

Initially, these textures are slow, sparse and meditative, with bowed instruments dominating the immediate foreground. Halfway through, a swell of steadily shimmering strings emerges from the stillness, like a sudden shaft of sunlight. Later on, musical box-like tinkles and a repeating two-note interval that could have been lifted from Somewhere Over The Rainbow (“Someday I’ll wish upon a star…”) introduce a sense of nostalgic longing, as if the music was wafting out of dusty crates in a grandparent’s attic.

Experimental but fully finished, ambient yet wholly captivating, this is a truly beautiful piece of work.

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  1. [...] I finally sat up, took notice, and had my ears opened to what was lying right under my nose. I reviewed Origamibiro’s Shakkei for the current issue of LeftLion magazine; have a read, take a listen, and see what you [...]


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