Artist: MUKAI, CHIE & CHE CHEN
Label: Black Pollen Press
Edition of 166 in die-cut letterpress sleeves.
“Recorded live in Tokyo at Next Sunday on February 23, 2011.
Chie Mukai: er-hu, voice, percussion, piano, dance Che Chen: violin, voice, percussion, sine wave generators
"While Chie Mukai is pretty well known in Japan, elsewhere in the world she may need some introduction. Born in Osaka, Mukai spent a few formative years in art school workshops led by Taj Mahal Traveler, Takehisa Kosugi, before forming her own groups, Che-Shizu and Enkidu (with the Boredoms Seichi Yamamoto and French sound artist, Eric Cordier). She has also developed a deep and ongoing practice as a solo performer, mostly based around the kokyu (a bowed, two stringed fiddle used in the traditional music of Japan and China, where it is called the ‘er-hu). At one of Mukais performances, one is pretty much guaranteed to hear her shredding on the kokyu and unleashing a series of wordless groans and cries in a voice that is both deeply primordial and unmistakably hers, but she also has a proclivity for using anything and everything within reach. During this set in particular she used, in addition to her kokyu and voice, the house piano, the last bands drum kit, a large plastic bag containing bells, rattles, a recorder, a kalimba and various other toy percussion instruments (you can hear her dump the contents of this bag on stage midway through the second side), and a short wooden stool that happened to be on stage. If this were not enough, we can add to this laundry list the fact that Mukai is constantly in motion, and indeed often spends long intervals of a performance simply moving about in space without making any sound at all. At times graceful, at others childish or even autistic seeming, poise, grace and awkwardness mingle as freely as the disparate sounds from Mukais array of instruments and objects. While we are perhaps more accustomed to sensing sound as a kind of movement, Mukais silent gesticulations often achieve a reversal of this equation; they get us to sense movement as a kind of sound. The word “dance” seems only occasionally appropriate.
Flyers for the workshops Mukai has been leading since the late nineties invariably contain the dashed off slogan: “NO GENRE! NO TECHNIQUE! NO BORDER!” Watching Mukai perform is to see this attitude against specialization put into practice. Her aesthetic is one in which one is an improvisor first and an “instrumentalist” or a “dancer” or “poet” second (if at all?).
During our sound check, I asked her how her kokyu was tuned. She replied, in her labored but deliberate english “I never tune” and then, after a brief pause, “I always tune as I play.” Sure enough, during our set Mukai was constantly tuning on the fly, sometimes to get in tune with me and sometimes, it seemed, to get out of it. as frenetic as our set got at times, Mukai is the most sympathetic of listeners and probably the most adaptable musician I have ever played with. Its an adaptability made possible by a certain attitude towards space. This was our first occasion to play together and during sound check as we talked about how to approach our set, I sensed she was having trouble finding the right words to express a particular idea to me. Hours later, just a few moments before we were supposed to go on, she pulled me aside and said, “Dont think too much about together. We each go our own way, but at the same time.” My Japanese isnt as good as Mukais english, but at that moment I was relieved that I actually knew the right words for the situation. “Wakata,” I replied." - Che Chen.