Surf the web and you’re going to find various types of commentary about Maruto. A writeup in particular amused me, that which starts with the reviewer’s enthusiasm for Toshimaru Nakamura’s “extreme frequencies” (as opposed to a supposed difficult acceptance by lots of people) followed by a nonchalant disclosure of the same writer’s damaged hearing. As illogical as this might appear – aural impairment and music analysis shouldn’t coexist in an ideal world – there’s a nucleus of seriousness in such a concept. Nakamura stands among the few sound artists I know of who is able to immediately get to the point through his work, entirely based on the handling of tones and noises born from a no-input mixing board. There’s no denying that the ensuing sonorities do affect a listener’s physical setting; occasionally, this might cause a psychological impact with unpredictable consequences. Maybe even catching something that in actuality does not exist, who knows.
Here’s how it works. Each being responds to subliminal impulses in individual and often aleatory ways, however there is a modicum of certainty in this area. One of them is that subsonic lows at consistent volume inevitably produce (in a sensible human aerial) a sense of half-clogged throbbing of the auricular membranes and a firm clutch on the skull’s back side, in turn putting the recipient in a state of partial immobility of their intellectual action. My long-time life companion – by now used, throughout 23 years, to all sorts of auditory torment (including records of much inferior pedigree), abruptly cut off a task of data transcription she was attempting to carry out, politely asking to halt the playback. On the diametric end of the compass, as soon as the higher frequencies materialized this morning, outside the window a group of birds – previously inaudible – started chirping involvedly, seemingly attracted by those capillary waves. My own experience brought the recognition of an impossibility to scan the entire gamut of pitches when listening via speakers, whereas a headphone session (we’re talking Beyerdynamic D 770 Pro, not bargain-priced iPod stuff) introduced a whole new range of presences that, if missed, lessen the record’s apparent worth quite a bit.
Those insidiously subtle nuances highlight the fundamental compositional traits in Maruto, whose formation is not that complex in spite of its protracted conception. The mixer’s hiss, ceaseless. An erratic preamble lasting five minutes or so, then a fixed hum taking command from then, with imperceptibly attenuating power in the final third and a minor variation in pitch, until the conclusion where this low tone – eventually left alone – is escorted by infinitesimal signals that only later reveal themselves to be coming from our ears. Temporary tinnitus, if you will. Over this foundation, all the variations devised by Nakamura – in conformation, colouration and dynamic, from virtually non-existent to penetratingly pragmatical – reinforce the work’s structure. A solid, no-frills set whose core value lies in its starkness, totally devoid of philosophies, immaterial implications and other kinds of verbose gadgetry.
In a word: let the sounds be, let the humans do the otiose talking. Some things never change.