Related Reviews
NPR Music
NPR Music's Favorite Songs of 2015: 'Japanese percussionist Kuniko Kato savors the hypnotic groove in the Greek composer's uniquely intense aesthetic.'
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'Kuniko's third album for Linn is a thrilling and atmospheric recording of pieces by Xenakis, and a fine test of speed and resolution.'
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BR Klassik ‚,Leporello‘‘
,,Kuniko ist eine Tänzerin an ihren Perkussionsinstrumenten – man spürt ihre Körperspannung zwischen den Tönen, man fühlt, wie sie im Raum nach den einzelnen Klängen greift. Jede Bewegung ist genau bemessen, und so arbeitet sie mit jedem Takt die Schönheit der Musik des großen Klang-Architekten Xenakis heraus.''
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Gramophone
'Kuniko passes this rite triumphantly. Her effortless, glitch-free technique and ability to manipulate mallets and sticks to seemingly coax melodies from non-melodic instruments are bound to humble aspiring and established percussionists alike.'
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Gapplegate Classical-Modern Music Review
'Kuniko's performance is unparalleled, as is the work.'
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Crescendo Magazine
'jeu éblouissant'
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The Sunday Times
'These are meticulous and muscular performances, at once elemental and elegant. Brilliant.'
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The Guardian
4 Stars
'Kuniko takes on the 1978 dance score Pléïades, and treats its effervescent textures to a loose, sensual swing.'
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AllMusic
Editor's Choice: 'Highly recommended.'
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'It's beautifully elastic-loopy, in every sense of the word-and it may make you smile.'
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SA-CD.net
5 Stars
'Her thrilling performance of this remarkable piece [Pléïades] is astonishingly confident and absolutely hypnotic.'
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ArtistXite
5 Stars
‘Japanese percussionist Kuniko transforms Iannis Xenakis’ challenging percussion music into a plastic, three-dimensional and hypnotic musical experience.’
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'...a totally fulfilling, all encompassing experience.'
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Image HiFi
,,Auch eine neue Aufnahme von Kuniko bei Linn setzt ein audiophiles Glanzlicht.''
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KUNIKO - Xenakis: IX - Audiophile Audition


08 June 2015
Audiophile Audition
John Sunier
4 Stars

The most amazing thing about kuniko and her espousal of avant-garde percussion in her many recordings are the videos available on YouTube in which she first plays the first three-and-one-half minutes ofthe second Reich work on the first SACD and then the tour de force of her duplicating not only the music parts of the complete fourth movement of Xenakis'  Pléïades (Peaux, which translates as skins), but also herself (visually) times six, playing the various tympani and other percussion.

kuniko is widely recognized as one of the most gifted and important percussionists in the world today. She studied under renowned marimba legend Keiko Abe and works today with composers and performers thruout the world in expanding the percussion repertory and its appreciation.  The first SACD, which was actually Linn's best-seller of 2011, features three arrangements of earlier Steve Reich works, and she worked closely with the composer on all three. On Vermount Counterpoint guitarist Pat Metheny also advised, since he performed the premiere of the work in 1987.

In the Six Marimbas Counterpoint keniko plays solo marimba along with a specially-prerecorded tape of the other five marimbas. There are a dozen overlapping tracks to go with the live performance, and all worked hard on achieving the perfect surround and stereo mixes of the work. In fact, all three works have a pre-recorded tape played together with the live performances.

Other reviews of the album have not been entirely positive; some object to the changes from the sounds of the electric guitar or clarinet to the marimba or steel pans. Reich is not one of my personal favorites (except for his Music for 18 Musicians) due to his total embrace of the strongest minimalism of any living composer. However, with kuniko's very precise technique and expressive performances, she has won me over with these Reich works, especially when accompanied by the visuals. No wonder it was the label's best-seller.

The new Xenakis SACD requires even more of a leap to appreciate. Neither of these contain music for everybody, just those who may want to expand their musical taste. The Greek composer-architect-mathematician (who died in 2001) pioneered works full of unusual notation and requiring virtuosic performances - some of them deemed actually unplayable. The big work here is his Pléïades, which is in four movements: Mixtures, Metals, Keyboards and Skins. In addition to the steel drums, vibes and marimba in this arrangement of the work, it requires the SIXXEN, which was designed by Xenakis himself and customised by kuniko, with 120 metal bars which are struck. The whole piece is a quite different sound world of great color and fantastic rhythmic complexities.

The profound musical intelligence of both Xenakis and kuniko come thru in this wild percussive work, but it will be slow going for many listeners. Watch the YouTube video of the last movement first; perhaps for some that will be all they will care to see, in spite of the other three movements not being shown, and the streaming sonics of course are nowhere near the 192K/24-bit of the carefully-engineered surround SACD.


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