As we approach the end of 2020, we thought we'd shine a light on a handful of releases we reckon should have had a bit more attention; albums that might have fallen between the cracks for some of you, but which have become missing links between different scenes and feelings for us over the duration of this cursed year. First up is FUJI||||||||||TA, whose iki album offered solace and space for contemplation with one of the most unusual, moving recordings we’ve heard in recent years. Played on a wheezing, self-built pipe organ, Iki unfolds into a set of oddly tuned organ meditations that bridge the gap between sacred music and the kind of smudged vignettes that made BoC's ‘Music Has The Right To Children’ so ingrained in our psyche’s. If there was one record in 2020 that perfectly straddled high art and approachability - this was surely it.
In the works for a decade, ‘iki’ is a unique release from nose to tail. It features FUJI||||||||||TA’s first recordings in nine years, over which time he’s got to grips with a self-built pipe organ that he crafted in 2009. The unique instrument features only 11 pipes, has no keyboard, and is powered by an air pump called a “fuigo” based on a traditional blacksmith’s model. Its sound is simply enchanting, and sensitively brought to life by the artist, who has evidently spent his time well in taming the instrument and bringing out its sublime, warbling harmonic and timbral qualities.
The overarching influence for ‘iki’ is traditional Japanese gagaku, the slow and elegant form of classical court music extant since the 7th century. In this context, FUJI||||||||||TA’s four pieces unfold with a graceful, if abstracted logic, imaginatively expressing a sound that one could easily imagine mirrored by graceful movements on stage, or enacted by much more phantasmic, anime creatures in the mind’s eye.
Within the first minute of ’keshiki’ our eyelids are drawn to half mast and we’re swept into an impossibly fragile and serene headspace as FUJI||||||||||TA gently coaxes out melodic figures over a long, sustained base note while the gentle clack of his pump appears to resemble a knackered butterfly beating its wings for the last time.
With ‘nNami’ the instrument’s capacity for beating low end frequencies really comes into view in a way recalling Eleh’s electronically generated wonders - but trust there’s no electricity involved here! - resulting in some dead uncanny harmonic chaos, and ultimately ‘osoi’, which sounds something like a BoC synth pad slowed down and recreated acoustically, also pulling the same trick on the ear to sublime effect, whereas ’sukima’ perhaps resembles organ music in its most classic, austere form, but in a way as familiar as a fleeting dream.
Unmissable for fans of Kali Malone, Eleh, BoC, Áine O’Dwyer, Yoshi Wada...