field report no.091616

SUBJECT: Ikue Mori

If you explore much in John Zorn's ever-growing musical kingdom, you are bound to come across Ikue Mori. Her imp improvisational electronics features on dozens more by other artists. Her utterly unique style of adds depth and mystery to any ensemble. She's an artist with a very identifiable palette but is still a responsive partner.

Of late, Mori's been honing a visual art accompaniment to her work. The first half of the night featured one of her recent works, Pomegranate Seed, a hallucinogenic take on Nathaniel Hawthorne's story from the Tanglewood Tales. The vibrant, multi-layered visuals were great steps beyond what I had seen from her just a couple of years ago: much more sophisticated and engaging. It's a pleasure to her her solo, too—pushing the dense abstraction of her style to the fore.

The second set was the debut of Mori's new quartet, Obelisk. Here she's drawing on a deep stable of players she regularly collaborates with. They deftly coaxed melodies out of Mori's abstractions, but never in an overly song-like way. Instead they approach it crab-wise, casting a semblance of form with intimations and shadows around the edges.

NOTES: Pomegranate Seed: Ikue Moir, electronics, projections; Obelisk Quartet: Ikue Mori, Sylvie Courvosier, Okkyung Lee, Jim Black


Kim Gordon / DJ Olive / Ikue Mori, 2000

The first time I heard this odd Kim Gordon album, I didn't know what to make of it. Sure, as a member of Sonic Youth, Gordon helped produce some of the most experimental rock to grace the radio since before the grunge boom. This is a wholly experiment. There's little in the way of structure. The songs—as much as you can find something that resembles one—drift freely in open figures of sound amongst anti-guitar-playing, laptop squiggles and intermittent turntable noodling. A description alone, that makes it clear why I was initially put off by SYR5

Records like this are alchemical; more than their constituent parts. They coalesce around a unity of sound and a sustained mood, even if that mood is queasy and uncomfortable. Moments of synchronicity feel more magical for how intuitive or haphazard any individual gesture or event feels. Looking back now, SYR5 is less a curious cul de sac so much as a working prototype of Kim Gordon's post-Sonic Youth career.