INTERVIEWS, REVIEWS & RELATED ARTICLES
The Wire APRIL 2000 - by David Elliott
REIGAKUSYA/ENO WITH PETER SCHWALM: MUSIC FOR ONMNYO-JI
An intriguing project to say the least, Music For Onmyo-ji brings together the oldest type of music in Japan - gagaku, from the Heian period - manga artist Reiko Okano's illustrations of Heian court life and a story by novellist Baku Yumemakura. The traditional ensemble Reigakusya were commissioned to performa musical interpretation (under the direction of Sukeyasu Shiba) on one CD, while Brian Eno has contributed a quite different interpretation on a second CD. The project's title is almost impossible to translate but could mean Music For The Heavens. The whole is packaged in an amazing semi-holographic silver and clear plastic wraparound sleeve
Reiko Okano would appear to be the instigator of this bizarre and rather beautiful project, though as the sleevenotes are all in Japanese, it's difficult to be exact. In any case, it's a a gorgeous affair: rich and sensuous, and redolent of a bygone era, yet also somehow strangely modern and vital
The twenty-five piece Reigakusya are a superb ensemble The combination of traditional instrumentation - sho, hichiriki, ryuteki, biwa, dadaiko and something called a wagon - and voice is beautiful in the extreme. The effect alternates between small and intimate, like a meeting between two courtesans in a tatami room; and grand and opulent, as befitting a shinto ceremony in a capacious courtyard.The excellent production benefits from quirky little touches here and there: an exquisitely engineered harmonic twang to the end of a phrase; a laugh out of the blue; modern touches to ancient music. No wonder Eno was drawn in.
His twenty-eight minute contribution is around a third of the length of Reigakusya's opus, but the quality is just as high. When the request came in from Okano, he was already working with Peter Schwalm (of Slop Shop, with whom Eno jammed at the Sushi! Roti! Reibekuchen! exhibition in Germany in 1998) on another project, but they temporarily took time out to fulfil this one. Translations, pictures and other source material were dispatched from Japan. Kyoko Inatome, a waitress in Eno's local Japanese restaurant, provides the vocals, although these are slowed/processed to such an extent that they sound utterly otherworldly. The result: six tracks of soothing, sensuous space syrup. Interpretative and collaborative projects like this are perhaps the ideal musical course for Eno these days, and this is certainly a worthy addition to his oeuvre