A certain kind…
Hugh Hopper & Yumi Hara Cawkwell
Though collaborator Yumi Hara Cawkwell may be less well known than ex-Soft Machinist, Hugh Hopper, she is no less talented. A gifted composer, performer and one time associate of London-based Japanese performance art popsters, Frank Chickens, Cawkwell has been steadily building a reputation that has seen her working with ex-King Crimson violinist, David Cross, providing thoughtful arrangements of Soft Machine repertoire for the Delta Saxophone Quartet, and stints as turntable-twirling DJ.
Oscillating between classical-sounding abstractions and looped-based electronics, these open-ended improvisations recorded in 2007 and 2008, chronicle two musicians respectfully seeking common ground. Her keyboards (both piano and organ) and sombre vocals offer a yearning ambiguity to Hopper’s grounded motifs and nimble exploratory figures.
Inevitably there’s a hit and miss aspect that creeps in occasionally. Though the tentative meandering of “Awayuki I and II” makes for an inconclusive experience, the terrain mostly consists of engaging and provocative pieces. “Long Dune” has Cawlkwell’s voice echoing forlornly across slowly shifting patterns of Hopper’s descending bass, and more demonstratively on the unsettling “Seki no Gohonmatsu”; which also bears the purr of Hopper’s trademark fuzz bass. Here, Calkwell give a full-blooded vocal to words taken from a traditional Japanese folk-song conjuring something that comes off being simultaneous ancient and drenched in modernity.
Elsewhere that mixing-up of traditions and disciplines continues. Messiaen-like shards of piano splinter across the abrasive “Shiranui,” and Softs fans will be intrigued to hear “Hopeful Impressions Of Happiness” – a bold reinvention of a song with nearly the same title from Soft Machine’s debut, proof were it needed, of that 40 year old album’s seminal status.
From soothing moments of calm reflection to jagged swipes at the psyche, the collective voices of HUMI form textures, moods, improvisation and formal compositions into a cohesive, expressive language. Beyond the confines of genre, subtle, striking and eloquent, don't expect anything obvious from this duo.