When listening to a record on which Taku Unami performs, there’s a temptation to get lost in its empirical reality. Not in its sounds, per se, but in the methods through which they are generated, and doubly so with Takahiro Kawaguchi on Teatro Assente. This album, in the spirit of last year’s motubachii (Annette Krebs and Taku Unami; on Erstwhile), is a black box; sounds are abundant and varied, at times familiar and placable, but the listener really has no clue from whom or what many originate. And Taku et al. have no intentions of revealing their sources; in fact, this ambiguity (and the listener’s affectation thereof) is a principle component of their aesthetic.
The listener is presented with two possibilities to confront this exuberant confusion. The first is to dissect Teatro Assente’s innards, to contextualize the uncredited, to search for Takahiro and Taku’s meaning and intent. Surely that is a rewarding experience; it can be a delight to realize which clicks are from a metronome and which are from thrown cardboard boxes or to discern the juxtaposition of a cell phone’s vibrations against a helicopter’s howl. It’s especially satisfying to uncover a narrative amid the album’s uncertainty: one could interpret the dynamic between Unami’s obfuscated everyday, non-musical objects and Kawaguchi’s cinematic sources as a dialectic beyond the liberation of sound from idiom, instead placing it as a transferable, universal phenomena (similar observations have been made about motubachii).
Or we can forego the analytic approach altogether. Having observed the performer’s reticence to provide technical information, our episteme is really constructed only through what is given: the album’s art, its peculiar track titles, and its assembled sounds. Here, Teatro Assente exists only in totality, so any exploration of its micro-phenomena is not only fruitless, but irrelevant. In this mode of listening, the question of meaning is reduced to a tautology; she either is ignoring intent or has already taken the prior that Kawaguchi and Unami’s thrust was fully given.
In fact, when no longer listening to “figure things out,” Teatro Assente’s gorgeous self is fully realized. Every crevice, its silences as well as its metal riffs, seem timeless. The room is filled by its contours, conjuring not just the view whence it was recorded, but how it felt, smelled. The packaging of Teatro Assente is covered with photographs of Ueno Okura Theater in Tokyo, the space in which this album was recorded. These images were taken by Akiko Ashizawa (Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s current cinematographer), providing an adequate glance into the session’s geography. The lighting and its refraction off of scraped metal perfectly contextualizes the ghastly physicality of Teatro Assente while also complementing the album’s devilish humor.
Surely Teatro Assente is serious music, but the way in which it is presented — from its neighboring seamless and jarring transitions to its reclusive demeanor — hints at a sort of playfulness. And, as such, Teatro Assente is endearing and provoking, but most of all, endlessly pleasing.