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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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Gramophone
'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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'The profound musical intelligence of both Xenakis and kuniko come thru in this wild percussive work...'
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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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'Kuniko's performance is unparalleled, as is the work.'
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'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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PS Audio
'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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Blouin Art Info
'...a totally fulfilling, all encompassing experience.'
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All About Jazz
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Image HiFi
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KUNIKO - Xenakis: IX - NPR Music ‘Deceptive Cadence’


14 April 2015
NPR Music ‘Deceptive Cadence’
Tom Huizenga

Percussionists back in Beethoven's day could be forgiven for feeling a little bored, waiting for the infrequent roll of the kettledrum or the occasional cymbal crash. But as orchestras grew bigger, percussionists got busier - even more so after World War I, when a new generation of composers began writing specifically for percussion.

 

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Composers like John Cage and Edgard Varèse expanded musical horizons for percussionists and others, like Iannis Xenakis and Pierre Boulez, followed their lead. The music, whether for soloist or ensemble, moved percussion into the spotlight and helped set standards for performance practice.

Japanese percussionist Kuniko Kato (who goes by the single name Kuniko) studied in Tokyo under marimba virtuoso Keiko Abe. Later she was the first percussionist to graduate from the Rotterdam Conservatory of Music.

Kuniko's new album, IX, is a terrific all-Xenakis affair devoted to two of his best-known percussion pieces.

In Pléïdes, four movements for six percussionists, Kuniko overdubs herself playing each part (watch a fascinating video). But in the two-part Rebonds ("Rebounds") she is truly alone with her pair of bongos, atumba (large conga), tom-tom, bass drums and a set of five wood blocks.

Xenakis might be considered cerebral (he was also an architect obsessed with geometry and math), but part B of Rebonds has a hypnotic, nearly danceable groove sustained by quick pulses in the bongos and fat punctuations from the bass drums. Kuniko lays out the rhythmic layers cleanly and with confidence. She doesn't play them speedily (like Pedro Carneiro), but instead opts for fluidity and a distinctive bounce that just might make your hips sway.


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