Anne-F Jacques, Ryoko Akama & Takamitsu Ohta - The Magic City (Hasana Editions)


1. Chris in the magic city
2. Holly in the city magic

Last year, the Bandung-based Hasana Editions established itself as a vital new cassette label. Highlighting exciting sound artists from Indonesia, its four 2018 releases were a thrilling look into forward-thinking experimental music coming out of the country. In an interview with Bandcamp, label founder Duto Hardono indicated that he’d soon be releasing music from artists outside Indonesia. This move would be a necessary step in helping the country take greater part in a larger, global exchange of musical ideas. With the label’s first two releases of 2019, they’ve begun to put this plan into action.

One of Hasana’s new albums comes from an international trio comprised of Anne-F Jacques (Canada), Ryoko Akama (Japan-born, UK-based), and Takamitsu Ohta (Japan). While Jacques has collaborated with both Akama and Ohta on separate occasions, The Magic City marks the first time these three have released an album together. The title makes reference to the record store-cum-music venue that housed their debut live performance. Taking place this past November, the concert occurred shortly after the death of Fluxus affiliate Takehisa Kosugi. The Magic City is described as being an ode to the composer, and while Kosugi was primarily known for his bracing work with violin, his various performances with quotidian objects—fans, feathers, balloons—loosely inform the sonic palette and methodology presented here.

More than anything, though, The Magic City recalls Ohta’s previous work. Two years ago, he and Takahiro Kawaguchi created an installation piece for the space_inframince gallery in Osaka. Their buzzing contraptions—built from items as unromantic as whisks, tops, and glass cups—have the same domestic appeal of what’s heard here. Throughout the course of the album’s forty minutes, the three musicians favor small gestures and continuous sound. It’s only after the end of Side A that one has a chance to recognize the unrelenting nature of a piece so subdued.

This lack of momentary silence renders these spaces as ambient worlds replete with quietly dazzling gadgetry. What this requires of the artists, then, is a constant supply of interesting rhythmic patterns and timbres to maintain interest. Without these things, the tracks are subject to a nondescript pleasantness that can quickly veer into tedium. The Magic City sometimes dips into such banal innocuousness, but the small dynamic range of its two pieces often rescue them; the introduction of any new sound, regardless of how incidental, is often enough to keep one’s ears perked. Even the passing of a nearby car proves sufficient.

While there’s plenty of miniature sounds to revel in on The Magic City, the album often hints at a meticulous procedure that the artists are undertaking. One grows curious when hearing the sounds of tape being stretched out, paper being crumpled, and doors being closed—is there a multistep task being performed here that we’re simply unable to parse due to the lack of visuals? If there is, the noises aren’t quite orderly enough to help listeners make sense of it. As such, The Magic City is most enjoyable when one spends less time trying to decipher its many intricacies and simply basking in the modest splendor of its constant rustling. The inclusion of a high-pitched tone during the album’s final ten minutes acts as reassurance: The Magic City is primarily about simple aural pleasure.