“Over That Way”

The world of experimental and “difficult” music is interesting for many reasons, not least the shelf-life of many of its resident albums. Take “Over That Way,” a 2002 Long Arms Records release featuring Koichi Makigami and Ryoji Hojito, for instance. Recorded in 2000, at Moscow venue “DOM,” “Over That Way” sounds fresh, startling, and wholly unique. Try getting that from a pop album, many of which should carry “best before —” stickers on the cover.

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The album features Makigami’s self-contained multitude of voices; guttural, childish, sing-song, rhythmic, percussive– he’s like the prodigal offspring of Bobby McFerrin and Mike Patton, taking the vocal realm and expanding its boundaries with every breath. Backing Makigami (and though this is a true group effort, I say “backing” because of the human tendency to focus on each other’s voices) is Hojito, apparently utilising all manners of objects to “prepare” his piano. In some tracks, it sounds as though Hojito is actually throwing objects into the piano, or otherwise causing it great harm. As unstructured as this may seem, songs like “That Way Knows Not,” and “The Life of Neither Bird Nor Frog” demonstrate the pair’s ability to effectively control the end results. Fans of mouth harp will also find this to be an album of interest, as Makigami puts his to great use throughout– you haven’t heard mouth harp until you’ve heard it alongside (or during?) throat singing.

As for production quality, I am shocked that this is a live album. Only an enthusiastic audience gives it away at times. I am not for certain, but once, it seems as though an audience member is improvising with Makigami and Hojito, but it is hard to be for certain; as together, the performers seem able to conjure the fullness of a quartet.

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