I have been wondering what, exactly, attracts an attentive audience when confronted with a record centered on field recordings or, at any rate, where nuances relating to the recording’s surroundings cause the effective psychoacoustic impact. To this day I cannot define why certain releases work beautifully whereas others are nearly useless, if not downright annoying. Surely Kazuya Matsumoto‘s Mujo belongs to the first category: an album rich in underlying dimensions, demonstrating the intimate relationship with sound and quietness on the part of its creator.

Over the course of a double CD, we are given sequences – most of them reasonably brief, with the exception of a couple of tracks lasting about 10 and 18 minutes respectively – that show the protagonist dealing with genuine “environmental improvisations”. These scenes revolve around unnamed implements interacting with the ice of a frozen lake, both above the surface and – via hydrophones – below. It is often difficult to accept that what we’re hearing derives from such a source because, quite frequently, it seems as though we’re enjoying a range of synthetic sounds that are actually sublimely biotic in nature. It takes a fair amount of time before one begins to assimilate the vibration of populated stillness conveyed by the soundscapes. After a few spins, we just long for absorption in that same ecosystem, delivered from the terrible racket of people’s mental distortions.

Besides its focus on the aquatic core of ice, Mujo comprises marvelous faraway resonances, wind hissing in a threatening yet protecting manner, local wildlife making its presence known, mysteriously droning hums. Simply said, while surrounded by emotions that tend in the opposite direction, this work gives the listener a sense of still being in the heart of living. Moreover, it made me recall the (currently impractical) solo explorations of the self during close encounters with waterscapes, which were typical of my youth. In spite of the dreary predictability of today’s society at large, at least some soul-breathing echoes resurfaced, courtesy of Matsumoto’s actions.

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