KUNIKO - cantus -

This release from Linn Records is far off the main streets. Kuniko Kato has made interpretations of Arvo Pärt, Steve Reich and Hywel Davies.

Kuniko Kato was born in Japan, but moved to Europe during training. She received her primary education [in] marimba by Keiko Abe in Tokyo, and received further education by Robert Van Sice in Rotherham.

In Cantus Kuniko has made her own interpretations for marimba and percussion of compositions by Arvo Pärt, Steve Reich and Hywel Davies. This leads to a very big range in the musical material. Arvo Pärt represents a distinct-but moderately contemporary composer, while Steve Reich is a far more modern composer.

This is not Kuniko's Foster first release on Linn Records. In 2011 the label released kuniko plays reich, an interpretation of the same Steve Reich's music. This is a bit daring, but very respectable effort from Linn Records' side, and illustrates that they are not afraid to go off the beaten track.

We start with Arvo Pärt, since the title track is an interpretation of his composition in conjunction with Benjamin Britten's death. The opening track 'Für Alina' is in its origin a piano piece that was first performed in 1976. I the original shape this is a pretty taciturn piece of music, and this is retained in Kuniko's interpretation. Kunko's piece adds a whole new character. It's a bit like time stops in this piece, where a fairly radical surround mix is an important part of the experience to me. The piece was recorded in a small mountain church near Nagano, and the sound of this church characterize the sound.

'Cantus' in Kuniko's different guise has a very strong character, but also Arvo Pärt's personal style is very much preserved. The piece has a repetitive descending circular motion, a design that is easy to associate with Pärt. This theme is recognized from the original orchestral version, but Kuniko's vibrating very polyphonic marimba adds an entirely new dimension. The piece was recorded in Lake Sagami Hall, chosen for the acoustics.

Fratres for me is perhaps the most fascinating composition of Pärt. It is found in a large number of variations, and also a highly repetitive structure. It also has a kind of 'stop-start' theme one in a brazen moment can associate with Miles Davis in the first half of the 70th century. Take an open-minded listen to Great Expectations on the album Big Fun from 1970 and see if you recognize this subject, albeit in an extremely different incarnation. Back to Fratres, where Kuniko has created a very distinctive interpretation, with an almost mystical atmosphere in a very sonorous, almost cave-like acoustics of Bankart Studio NYK 1929.

'Spiegel im Spiegel' is another of Arvo Pärt's most prolific compositions. A slowly wandering character is retained in Kuniko its interpretation. The same harsh acoustics of Bankart Studio NYK 1929 goes a bit over the edge, and is a bit difficult to deal with. It is in my ears hardly as successful here as on 'Fratres'.

Demanding is also the sound of Hywel Davies's composition 'Purl Ground', which is the only composition originally written for marimba. It drowns the acoustic marimba sound in a kind of intermodulation and gives a very distant picture, though intended. While writing, this piece is not yet fully absorbed by this reviewer. But who's the hurry?

In return, Steve Reich's piece of 'New York Counterpoint' a very fascinating music in Kuniko`s interpretation. Here the marimba gives a very dynamic and rhythmic groove. Vibration is probably the most adequate expression.

Linn Records has made a small feat here. We have the opportunity to expand our musical horizons through a very virtoust Marimba Play and creative interpretations of more contemporary composers. Arvo Pärt is dominant in volume, and it is tempting to allow the two second coming in the shadow of the innovative interpretations of Arvo Pärt. Are you open to exploring new musical terrain, there's no reason to let this opportunity pass, with its innovative sound in many channels. Carpe Diem!
08 November 2013