Tokyo Bloodworm: Palestine

Arizona-based duo Ryan Keane and R.A Sanchez began collaborating together under the Tokyo Bloodworm name in 2004 and now have the honour of issuing what will be the final release on the admired Moteer label. The expansive sound on the outfit's third full-length, Palestine, which has been in the works since 2006, comes courtesy of not just of the core members but also guests such as guitarists David Marin and Phillip Shiozaki, vocalist Amy Hudson, violinist Maureen Choi, and multi-instrumentalist William Ryan Fritch. There's a painterly feel to the album's material, with the producers assembling multiple sound fragments in a collage-like manner but with the aim of creating fully formed compositions as opposed to fractured abstractions. In ten settings, guitars (acoustics and electrics), vocals, strings, piano, and atmospheric treatments create patiently unfolding instrumental settings of humid and languid design. What results is a natural sound that could pass for an instrumental collective of about six musicians playing notated music with the telepathic feel of improvisors who've long played together.

“Canaanite Coast” introduces the album in laconic mode, as if the guitar and violin players are easing themselves into the recording scenario, and a pastoral, acoustic-oriented ambiance pervades the piece. A brooding quality shadows the subsequent song, “Pale the Clerics Pass,” a moodiness that includes an exotic, Middle Eastern tone that perhaps reflects the choice of album title (the later dirge “Blind Daughters of Gaza,” elevated by a mournful violin presence, renders the connection even more explicit). A phase-treated theme snakes its way through the murky textures and washes of sound that gently wheeze throughout the song, and the lonely call of a flute drifts across plucked string sounds that form spidery lattices. A sense of rootless languor dominates until a transition into “Vesica Piscis” occurs without interruption, that song's guitar elements cohering into something more concrete and directional, even as the focus shifts to a collective whole formed by the accumulation of multiple fragments. A lazy clip-clop rhythm starts “People Do It to Each Other” on its way, clearing a path for guitar shadings and hushed vocals to blend together into a time-suspending mass of slow-motion gestures. Murmured vocals, guitars, piano, and harmonium swell into an uplifting, sun-blinded array during “The Garden Shined Our Eyes Away,” after which the album deviates from its generally laid-back tone when aggressive drumming emerges during “Mergers and Occupations.” Inflamed by a sense of wonderment, the bravura, penultimate piece, “Flames Set in Wooden Frames,” wends an exploratory, twelve-minute journey through an exotic landscape thick with emotive strings and acoustic guitar strums. It's a shape-shifter of sorts, with a sense of guitar-fueled urgency driving it forward in one section, in contrast to the slow and measured steps it takes during meditative moments elsewhere.

Palestine is accompanied by a limited-edition bonus disc of remixes featuring contributions from Vieo Abiungo, Ian Hawgood, Matt Elliott (Third Eye Foundation), The Remote Viewer, Part Timer, Shigeto, Children of the Wave, and Manyfingers, among others. In some cases the remixes depart dramatically from the style and spirit of the originals: Hawgood's pieces are distinguished by a heavy incorporation of outdoors field recordings in one and the ghostly strains of a traditional Asian ensemble in the other, while Part Timer gives “Mergers and Occupations” a funky snap that's as much about hip-hop as it is folktronica. In Shigteo's hands “Flames Set in Wooden Frames” becomes a pulsating exercise in bleepy electro-funk, while Sun Hammer's remix of same eschews rhythm for ambient entrancement. In addition, The Remote Viewer submerges “Mergers and Occupations” within a bath of liquid glue, and Manyfingers amplifies the dramatic portent of “Blind Daughters of Gaza” with heavy doses of strings and espionage-styled atmosphere. Anything but disposable, the collection features high-quality re-imaginings that form an enriching complement to the parent disc.

May 2011