«Prickly Pear Cactus» began as a zoom session between Japanese, Kobe-based pianist-composer Satoko Fujii and Japanese-American, New York-based electronics wizard Ikue Mori. Fujii mentioned that she was recording piano solos at home. Mori asked her to send the sound file so she would play along with it and send it back. Fujii and Mori began to exchange files, then they asked Fujii’s partner, trumpeter Natsuki Tamura, to join and add his trumpet, and Fujii and Tamura were sent duets for Mori to add to. Mori edited and mixed the final pieces.
«Prickly Pear Cactus» is the fourth collaboration of Fujii and Mori and was created shortly after Fujii and Tamura Japnese-French quartet KAZE recorded with Mori in New York ןn February 2020 the fantastic album «Sand Storm» (Libra/Circum Disc), a short time before the Covid-19 pandemic lockdowns. Despite the dire circumstances that forced the three musicians to change their musical plans, Fujii says that the process of making this album was more than just about making music. «This is also a record of friendship. We encouraged each other to help us deal with a crazy and dangerous global situation. It definitely gives you strength and hope!»
The outcome of this long-distance, back-and-forth collaboration is a series of compelling puzzles of sounds. Electronic, mysterious sci-fi sounds blend organically with familiar, acoustic sounds, but always stream seamlessly in unpredictable courses. The futuristic sounds are weaved gently with extended breathing techniques and prepared piano and inside-the-piano playing techniques. Somehow, all reached a fragile balance and flows in an unforced and intimate manner, with some titles even address – literally – water and streams (and some of Kobe’s traditional Japanese delicacies that Tamura is fond of). All pieces honor the spontaneous moments and the eccentric, whimsical ideas when they were first played. Obviously, the ten pieces of «Prickly Pear Cactus» blur common boundaries between composition and improvisation. The longest piece «Overnight Mushroom» and «Sign» suggest a strange but lyrical, exotic and even ironic textures. The delicate «In the Water» floats in distant topographic oceans and «Turning» sounds as dancing around itself but liberated by the subtle electronic steps of Mori.
«Prickly Pear Cactus» is full of many beautiful and engaging sonic surprises. This music can charge you all with much needed hopeful steroids.
Ikue Mori (elec), Satoko Fujii (p), Natsuki Tamura (tp)