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(64:45, Moonjune Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. Long Dune 10:47 2. Shiranui 8:03 3. Seki no Gohonmatsu 8:43 4. Circular Dune 5:21 5. Scattered Forest 5:51 6. Hopeful Impression of Happiness 4:29 7. Awayuki-I 5:51 8. Awayuki-II 5:03 9. Distant Dune 6:09 10. Futa 4:27 LINEUP: Hugh Hopper – bass guitar; electronics Yumi Hara-Cawkwell – keyboards; vocals; percussion
Prolusion. The name of this English outfit, HUMI, is compiled from the first names of its participants, Hugh Hopper and Yumi Cawkwell, the first two letters of one's first name and the last two of the other's. I believe there’s no need in enlarging on Mr. Hopper’s work: Still one of the main driving forces behind Soft Machine, he became a living legend already in the ‘70s, and has been also playing with too many other artists to even remember all of them, let alone listing them here. As to Yumi Cawkwell, this Japanese lady (her maiden name being Hara) is also a citizen of the UK to where she relocated fifteen years ago. Originally a psychiatrist, in her new homeland Yumi practices exclusively as a musician, and she is a classically trained musician, by the way. Otherwise how would she have received a Doctor of Philosophy degree in composition (which she did, in 1995, at London’s City University)? I think nobody knows how the artists have found each other, but the result of their meeting, the “Dune” CD, is present. This is their first collaboration to date.
Analysis. Dissimilar to anything I have previously heard from Hopper’s entire repertoire, “Dune” is generally a unique creation, but while it has quite a few other virtues as well, originality as such is its main quality to my way of thinking. Judging by the languages that the disc’s ten tracks’ titles are written in, it seems Hugh and Yumi each penned an equal quantity of compositions for it, and although some of those are slightly different from the others, the creation as a whole comes across as being pretty uniform in both approach and style, thus proving it is a truly collaborative effort. It might happen that I’ll touch on one or two of the pieces specifically, but generally I think there is no special need for a track-by-track investigation in this particular case. So I’ll try to focus on the entire creation, by describing its most characteristic aspects, and will begin with the musical style here, which (perhaps logically, considering the album’s general uncommonness) evades me regarding its precise classification, at least by using a traditional genre terminology. The elements of jazz, symphonic, spacey, minimalist, texturally-electronic and ambient can all be intermixed among themselves, but can appear as separate features as well, particularly often the first three. Some other entities, though still predominantly contrasting, if not conflicting, in character, are to be found in the album’s emotional message: dark and disturbing, psychedelic and smoothly meditative, stimulating and relaxing, and even sleepy- as well as somnambulistic-like ones, of which the former two seem to be prevalent, due to their more instantly recognizable nature, for sure. As hinted above, singularity is all around here, and Cawkwell’s singing, though manifesting her Japanese roots from time to time (on Seki no Gohonmatsu in particular), is overall full of strangeness, too. Her vocals are often accompanied by echoes and then her voice seems to be wrapped up in a ghostly aura, adding an extra sense of the marvelous to the music as such which already in itself appears as a mysterious, kinda extraterrestrial, landscape. Yumi’s keyboard playing is generally one of a kind, her wonderful ability to jump from pure improvisation to strict compositional accuracy within the same thematic storyline, let alone the piece, making me scratch my head wondering how, why and to where the border between those two, completely different, styles disappears? Cawkwell’s personal keyboard equipment includes synthesizers and piano, but on Awayuki-I she is behind a church organ. That being said, this is probably the most paranormal musical entity in the set and is one of the winners to my mind. Besides playing the bass in the standard manner, Hopper, by using specific techniques, elicits a wide variety of non-traditional sounds from the instrument. Some of those are electronically processed, via the bass pedals, but since Hugh deploys other, special, electronic devices as well, it’s at times hard to recognize a real source of his proceedings, though it doesn’t matter after all as the overall result is fascinating, in the majority of cases. While revealing quite a few structurally dense, rock-sounding, episodes (normally with Hopper’s trademark fuzz-bass riffs as their basis) along the way, the music is nevertheless more often relatively transparent than otherwise and is barely audible (think very, at times extremely, quiet piano passages coming as if from the stratosphere) on some occasions, then bringing to mind a rarefied air, though there are also a couple of moments that only arouse associations with an open space. That said, it’s the latter two aspects of the outing that somewhat prevent me from enjoying it in a non-stop regimen :-), having also slightly affected its rating.
Conclusion. Don’t give up on this recording after its first play – in spite of all, to put it briefly. It is not destined for a superficial listening. Unless you are devoid of any imagination (which would mean you are not a prog lover), take on the journey again, and you will be rewarded. For the most part, this is a truly massive musical palette which, moreover, will strike you with its fancy appearance as well as its richness in metaphysical entities.
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