If there is one thing that ECM Records is known for, it is releasing records from acts whose content is unique to say the very least. Ayumi Tanaka Trio’s sophomore album, Subaqueous Silence (say that five times fast) is no exception to that rule. Released Friday, the seven-song, 34 minute record is the very definition of unique. Its musical arrangements are to thank for that. They will be discussed shortly. The lack of any information in the album’s booklet is a clear and definite detractor to the record’s presentation, especially as experimental as the arrangements seem. This will be discussed a little later. The record’s production rounds out its most important items and will also be discussed later. Each item noted is important in its own way to the whole of Subaqueous Silence. All things considered, they make the album a presentation that will appeal primarily to a very targeted audience base.
Ayumi Tanaka Trio’s brand new sophomore album, Subaqueous Silence is an aptly titled presentation from the trio, fronted in this instance by its namesake, Ayumi Tanaka. The record is a decidedly unique presentation that will appeal to a very specific audience. That is proven in large part through its featured musical arrangements. The arrangements make the album live up to its title at least to a point. Speaking specifically, the arrangements lead the album to live up to the “silence” portion of the title. That is because the arrangements are dominated more by silence than notes. There is an old adage that the notes not played are more important than those played. Tanaka takes that old adage literally and to the extreme here, using more of a minimalist/expressionist approach than real musical approach. What’s more, the silence in question is part of a quieter, experimental approach taken in each composition overall. Maybe that is the result of her interest in Norwegian music, which she discussed in a press release distributed about the album. According to her comments, her interest in and respect for the nation and its brand of jazz did indeed play into the approach to the album, though there is certainly no jazz influence here. Rather, it does come across more as a chamber music presentation than jazz, which again, she stated was her intent. To that end, the approach taken to the arrangements and their sound from one to the next will definitely find appeal to a very specific audience base. It is very much an acquired taste that only certain audiences will like.
While the musical content featured in Subaqueous Silence will find appeal among at least some audiences, the lack of any background on the featured arrangements in the album’s booklet detracts notably from the album’s presentation. That is important to note because each composition is so deep in its minimalist approach. Right from the album’s outset in ‘Ruins’ audiences get a work that is just so stark in its approach and sound. Audiences may even find themselves wanting to fast forward the song to make sure something did not go wrong in the disc’s playback. Had some background on the composition been provided, audiences might not have been taken so aback by the song. In similar fashion, the subtle, subdued ‘Zephyr’ is so unique in its approach and sound that some discussion on the inspiration behind the song’s creation would have been nice. Otherwise, really all audiences get in this case (and really the album’s other songs) is a composition that is, as noted, quite impressionist in its approach. Audiences can hear Tanaka’s connection to her Japanese culture (that is noted only in the press release announcing the album’s release) ever so subtly. However, audiences have to really, fully immerse themselves in the song in order to catch the momentary musical mention of that connection. Either way, it is another example of how some background would have benefited the album. The lack of overall background on the songs is not enough to doom the album, but it certainly does detract from the album’s overall presentation.
The lack of any background on the album’s songs in the album’s booklet is a clear detriment to its presentation. It is not enough to completely doom the album, though. The record’s production plays into the record’s interest, too. The production is so important to note because of the extremely painstaking attention to detail that had to be paid to each arrangement, what with the subtleties and overall quiet nature of each. Those behind the glass had to ensure that the volume on each note, the accent of each note, the very sound, was perfect. To that end, the record succeeds. It forces audiences to, again, fully immerse themselves in each composition. Those audiences who do and who are already interested in music such as that featured here will fund that the production brings out the best in each work, thus making the record that much more worth hearing at least once.
Ayumi Tanaka Trio’s new album, Subaqueous Silence is a unique new offering from the trio to say the very least. The record is one that will appeal to a very targeted audience. That is proven through its very subtle musical arrangements that require listeners’ very immersion into each song. The arrangements are that in-depth. The lack of any background on the songs detracts from the album’s presentation, especially taking into account the time and thought that Tanaka and her fellow musicians put into each unique arrangement. That background would have gone a long way toward making each composition more understood, and in turn, appreciated. The record’s production rounds out its most important elements. That is because it displays the time and work spent making sure each arrangement was so immersive. Each item noted is important in its own way to the whole of the record. All things considered, the album in whole proves to be a presentation that will definitely appeal to a very specific audience base.
Subaqueous Silence is available now through ECM Records. More information on this and other titles from ECM Records is available at:
To keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news, go online to https://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.