‘This record is powerful because of the way it brings not just the sounds into this performative space, but invites the listener in as well.‘ Ian Maleney on the new LP from Japanese/Norwegian quintet, Koboku Senju.
We’re used to thinking of force as something that is loud. From metal to techno to Swans and My Bloody Valentine, volume and physical strength is the accepted way to be forceful. We’re also quite used to the idea of ambient music as something that is in the background, something light and unobtrusive. The hint is in the name. Joining The Queue To Become One Of Those Ordinary Ghosts cuts through both of these assumptions at once, being a record of quietly forceful, heavy background noise that really rewards close listening.
Koboku Senju are a Japanese-Norwegian quintet of freely improvising musicians, taking texture and tone to extremely abstract places. It’s the quietness of it all that sucks you in. There are few peaks or troughs on either side of the record, rather a series of textures and tones are presented. They flicker across the sound stage, disembodied and all the more dangerous for their lack of concrete form. It’s difficult, if not impossible, to tell where most of these sounds are coming from or how many musicians might be playing at one time. There is never any clutter, and the massive sense of space waiting to be filled is perhaps the record’s key attribute.
This is best executed through the midsection of Side B. An impossibly high whirring tone sits above the mix, high and thin enough to be slightly eminently noticeable but not loud enough to be annoying in the way that such tones keep kids from loitering outside shopping centres and chippers. The tone appears on the opening side also but it assumes a central, revealing position on the second side. It acts as a tool to highlight what happens underneath. It creates a space into which all the lower drones and skeletal rhythms enter, perform and leave. This arena allows each sound to be considered fully, without ever revealing its form too clearly. It feels like a show. The successful use of such a weak, thin sound as the central frame is impressive.
But we have to come back to the idea of force, of power. This record is powerful because of the way it brings not just the sounds into this performative space, but invites the listener in as well. It is a quiet record, quiet enough to mingle easily with the ambient sounds in one’s environment but it works these sounds into a tapestry of negative space, softly enveloping the listener and overwhelming them by the end. It is a quiet displacement of consciousness, leaving the attentive mind somewhere altogether different from where it started.