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FHC - 2011 - "Polka-Dot Ribbonfish That Makes A Detour"

(43:27, Musea Records)



1.  Abyss Peep 3:56
2.  Spider & Fly 1:15
3.  Zymogem 1:04
4.  Ocean & Strains Part V 3:44
5.  Ifs and Buts 2:35
6.  Trichoptera 2:07
7.  Bon-No 1:08
8.  Ballas 3:47
9.  Wood Louse 1:48
10. Summit 2:03
11. Aroa on Roof 4:20
12. Infantilism 2:05
13. Water Strider 1:19
14. Diverticulum 1:03
15. Kymograph 3:18
16. Tomtin 1:15
17. Rhabdomantist 4:33
18. 7 by 5 Is 35 No-2 2:07


Atsuhi Kasai – Chapman stick 
Rumi – accordion, bass melodeon; glockenspiel

Prolusion. The Japanese outfit FHC, also known as Fox Hole Commune, has been around since the early 1990's. They have a handful of cassette releases and seven CD-R releases to their name, many of the latter issued by Poseidon Records’ sub-label Vital. "Polka-Dot Ribbonfish That Makes A Detour" is the first of their productions to be released on a factory pressed CD, and is a joint venture between Posiedon Records in Japan and Musea Records in France, the latter releasing this album on their Gazul sub-label.

Analysis. Gazul Records is a sub-label Musea utilizes for production they mainly describe as new music, the home for a fair few productions of avant-garde and experimental nature, but also an unpredictable home for uncompromising music that isn't easily placed within a select category. And I would guess that FHC is an artist that fits this latter description very well indeed. The Chapman stick is the recurring instrumental feature on all 18 compositions, paired off against either the accordion or bass melodion, with glockenspiel and occasional noise treatments sparingly used as additional effects. As far as creating music is concerned, a rather challenging task to utilize these instruments to create compelling compositions, especially if all of them are meant to have a strictly individual sound. And to my ears at least, the end result is only partially successful. Alterations in tempo are used a fair bit, and quite a few pieces use start and stop effects partially or throughout for dramatic impact. Contrasting light and deeper textures are used just as often as strictly harmonizing arrangements, and the majority of the tracks stay on the short side. The latter is one of the strengths of this production, exploring a single idea and then concluding rather than trying to stretch it beyond the initial novelty impact, the latter the case for quite a few of the less than intriguing creations at hand. To my ears Rhabdomantist is the most intriguing piece by far, with standalone stick and accordion sequences as well as combined sections with a nifty noise texture applied to very good effect, one of the rare instances where a multiple theme exploration sticks due to the variety in instrumental and sound constructions. Opening piece Abyss Peep, featuring plucked stick notes, spoken words, noise effects and downmixed accordion works very well too, Spider & Fly with a circulating and starkly contrasting dual layered instrumental theme and Zymogem with its base stick motif and dramatic, surging accordion motifs another specimen which merits a description as successful. The odd pattern of Infantilism is another number worth a special mention. By and large the sheer scope of these pieces tends to get too limited however, too uniform, a bit too alike one another and not really utilizing the strengths of both instruments to craft truly compelling and memorable themes. In terms of style, it's hard to escape associations to folk music whenever the accordion is used, and as the melodion shares a few similar traits the associations stay mostly put also when this instrument is employed. In this case it's hard to pinpoint references beyond a generic folk music association however, with a token few pieces reminding of French music or perhaps even more so fellow Japanese artists Quikion as the main exceptions.

Conclusion. The main audience for this Japanese duo’s official debut album is one hard to define. Those with a deep affection for Chapman stick, accordion and bass melodion might apply, especially those who find the idea of combining these three intriguing. Apart from that, liberal minded fans of experimental folk music might find this album to be of interest. Whether or not the end result fits the avant description common among other artists issued on Musea's Gazul sub-label I'm unsure about, but they do explore a relatively unique musical landscape. That much is certain.

OMB=Olav M Bjornsen: January 7, 2012
The Rating Room

Related Links:

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