NOBUKAZU TAKEMURA – “SCOPE” (1999)
For me, ten years ago, Nobukazu Takemura’s “Scope” LP the sound of the new millenium. Granted, I was only 20 at the time, but a re-listen to this record a few weeks ago made me glad to know not everything I liked back then would make me look silly today.
Takemura is a prolific Japanese musician whose work straddles several genre lines, but the voice of his that I’m into the most is this one, the minimalist electronic doodler. And doodles these tracks are: squiggly, blurry and very, very charming. Allmusic sez:
Takemura’s Scope is a beautiful record. When first popping this into a CD player, one may be a bit taken aback — it [is] nothing you will, or could, predict. No heavy beats, no discernable instrument sounds only kind of a synthesized clicking. It is a much different clicking than something like Oval, as there is no staid rhythm and slow modulation. A little more than halfway through the album comes the song “Icefall.” This is when it can be realized that Nobukazu Takemura is a genius. There are chord changes and modulations in the clicks, now sounding much like an intentionally skipping CD, but they are all crushed together, sounding more like an orchestra of little clicks. The clicks keep clicking and smash one on top of the other again and again — it is a symphony of clicks. So clever, so painstaking this task must have been that it blows one away. After hearing “Icefall,” subsequent listens of the album sound completely different, as if this song allows the listener to understand the music much more. Takemura’s music invites a kind of Platonic dialogue — once you’ve looked at his music from every possible angle and think you understand it, a single event changes your perception of it entirely. This music is miles ahead of the bleeps and loops of most electronic music being made today.
The above review is crammed full of slightly juvenile hyperbole, but its message is true: this record is even unlike other beep-whirr-’n-click artists of the period.
I caught Takemura live only once, at the Troubador here in L.A., back in 2000. It was mostly a laptop show, which can often be dull — but he took it to a very lofty height as he brought out a female Japanese vocalist, had her sing a melody, cut her track up live and spat it out into the chopped-and-blurred masterpiece that is “Kepler”, certainly the best track on this already highly creative album.