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«微 美 Bibi»

Bibi ( , subtly beautiful or slightly beautiful in Japanese) brings together two Japanese iconoclasts musicians – Tokyo-based koto virtuoso Michiyo Yagi, who invented the Japanese word for the album title, and known for her collaborations with Peter Brötzmann, Paal Nilssen-Love and Ingebrigt Håker Flaten, with London-based contemporary composer and synth player Dai Fujikura, who recently collaborated with sampling wizard Jan Bang (The Bow Maker, Jazzland/Punkt Editions, 2022). Yagi and Fujikura expanded their duo recently and performed together with guitarist Eivind Aarset and Bang.

Yagi and Fujikura first met two decades ago and strengthened their friendship via the Born Creative Festival, held annually at the Tokyo Metropolitan Theatre and curated by Fujikura. For the past four years, Fujikura has showcased Yagi in various contexts at Born Creative. Bibi was conceived and recorded between October 2020 and May 2021, during the Covid-19 lockdowns and when Fujikura found himself with a newly acquired modular synthesizer software and some free time. He invited Yagi to create some music together via audio file exchange. Most of the pieces were completed in record time. Yagi sent improvised ideas or ditties to Fujikura and he orchestrated them in a few hours, or Fujikura sketched ideas on the synth and yagi added the koto parts. Later, Fujikura also mixed and mastered the 13 short pieces.

Yagi and Fujikura play on ancient and vintage instruments but their approaches are totally fresh and timeless. Yagi has developed extended techniques and incorporated electronics while preserving the uniquely resonant character of the three different kotos she is playing (acoustic and electric 21, 17 and 13-string kotos) in their most primal form. Fujikura bring to this meeting his great imagination as a composer whose works have been conducted and played by Pierre Boulez, Gustavo Dudamel, Peter Eötvös, Jonathan Nott and Martha Argerich, and many others.

The atmosphere of Bibi is mostly contemplative, introspective and ambient, but suggests many poetic images and delicate moods. Fujikura’s synth expands and ornaments gently the resonant sonic scope of the koto and adds subtle and sometimes even subversive layers to Yagi’s musings. At other times, Yagi extends Fujikira’s suggestive-atmospheric cinematic images with sparse dramatic ideas. A few pieces like «Hijiri (Holy)» and «Mokurei (Tree Spirit)» vary the subtle and peaceful dynamics with more intense, dramatic and distorted and noisy sonic collisions while pieces like «Hizumi (Distortion)» and «Hasu (Lotus)» offer a futurist perspective on traditional and ritualist Japanese music. All pieces stress the vivid, genre-bending imagination of both Yagi and Fujikura as well as the haunting, subtle beauty of this poetic meeting.

Eyal Hareuveni

Michiyo Yagi (acoustic & electric 21- and 17-string kotos, 13-string koto, elec), Dai Fujikura (synth, elec)

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