Taku Unami

David Grubbs & Taku Unami - Failed Celestial Creatures (Empty Editions)

David Grubbs & Taku Unami - Failed Celestial Creatures (Empty Editions)

Writing in Japan during the late 1930s and early 1940s, Nakajima Atsushi drew from classical Chinese texts in order to tackle existential questions that he wrestled with personally. Contemplation about such matters weren't in vogue at the time, and understanding this helps to paint the potential loneliness he felt in having these thoughts. In the afterword to The Moon over the Mountain, the first collection of Nakajima's short stories translated to English, Paul McCarthy and Nobuko Ochner note that his contemporaries would approach fiction autobiographically. In attempting to do this, Nakajima found the results unsatisfactory. He was, after all, just a schoolteacher: how could his philosophical musings be wholly conveyed through such a limited lens? One senses that in his utilization of canonical texts—and his rigid faithfulness to them—Nakajima found both a large enough canvas to work with and a solace in assigning his inner turmoils to characters that were familiar to all.

Eric La Casa / Taku Unami - Parazoan Mapping (Erstwhile)


Purchase Parazoan Mapping here

With fifteen untitled vignettes and varying source material, Parazoan Mapping often feels like an aural scrapbook. And when looking through any scrapbook, the different photos and pieces of ephemera always point to something bigger: a sort of unraveling of the people contained within. The pictures of your family’s vacation from several years ago may not explicitly show it but you very well understand how then compares to now—that feeling of joy when you conquered your first wave after hours of learning to surf? You know that same dedication has carried into your hobbies today. That picture of mom in her crazy, vibrant dress? You know that’s the same woman you continue to admire for her eccentricities. That picture with everyone eating the ice cream dad bought? You know that’s the same father who sacrificed everything to make you happy since day one. Similarly, Parazoan Mapping may seem like a random assortment of stuff on the surface but La Casa and Unami enhance our appreciation of each individual sound they trace by making known the cohesiveness that exists within the numerous aural landscapes of our everyday.

Parazoans are part of the kingdom Animalia and, when translated, literally mean “beside the animals”. Parazoan Mapping, then, feels like an apt title; it acts both as a signifier of what you’ll hear but also as a statement regarding its function and purpose. Recording from mostly familiar and recognizable settings, La Casa and Unami want us to feel the liveliness of the sounds all around us. Perhaps most exhilarating is the sound of a basketball court on tracks eight through eleven. The first two tracks highlight what’s specifically happening on that court; we’re barraged with the noise of basketballs bouncing and shoes sliding but it’s the mixing and editing here that make the intensity palpable. The thud of each basketball feels surprisingly forceful and the movement of players even becomes dizzying at one point. The following track focuses on those waiting to see the game while the track thereafter combines the two groups of people to showcase the energy radiating from inside the entire gym, both on court and in the stands.

It’s completely unrelated musically-speaking but these tracks naturally made me think of "The Courts" from Jam City’s hugely influential Classical Curves. On that track, Jack Latham utilizes the sounds you’d hear on a court (bouncing basketballs create a 4x4 beat, the sliding of shoes weave in and out) to make the stadium-ready dance number even more grandiose. It’s the relentless excitement we associate with basketball games that informs the listener and consequently makes the track so enthralling. What La Casa and Unami do here though is completely different; they’re the guides and we as listeners are invited to explore and understand what’s being heard through close inspections of an object’s timbral qualities. This participatory element isn’t particularly unique when considering these artists’ previous works but what makes this record so satisfying is that in the process of appreciating these seemingly mundane sounds, we see an apparent continuity that exists between them. The ticking on track two sounds similar to the ticking on track three, sure, but they also resemble the isolated rain drops in track five. The sound of someone chopping food with a knife is punctuated by squeaking that undoubtedly sounds like the aforementioned sounds of shoes sliding on a basketball court. And soon after, we’re hearing more quick-moving feet and balls but recontextualized on a tennis court. It’s as if La Casa and Unami are slyly winking at us, telling us that if you enjoyed any of the sounds on one of these tracks, it won’t be long before you enjoy the sounds on every one of them.