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Amy Denio - Tasogare
CD-R (Seattle, WA)


Amy Denio - Accordian, Voice
Eyvind Kang - Viola

(Blastitude no. 19) I remember reading about Amy Denio in Option Magazine something like 45 years ago, and she sounded cool, but the other name on this disc is the one that really got my attention: master musician Eyvind Kang. I've known about him for years, but only just recently felt a surge of interest in his music. Not only is he a funky-ass mutron bass player (check out "The Feel" by Alvarius B), but when it comes to improvised music, he could play in a trio with a grasshopper and a cinder block and you still wouldn't be able to tell which sounds were his. Like on that stunning recent William Hooker CD Complexity #2, it sounds like he's not in the band at all until the 37-minute mark, when all of a sudden there he is wailing through massive distortion like a one-man Mahavishnu Orchestra, sounding like he'd been there along, and he probably had been. On this Amy Denio CDR, I can't pick him out for sure until around the 20-minute mark, but he may actually be one of those very rare musicians who knows that even if you're just sitting still and silently listening for 20 (or 37) minutes without playing your instrument, you're certainly still expressing yourself. After all, Denio wrote this thing, described as "music for Yoko Murao's dance piece." She plays accordion and lays down an awesome Oliveros-worthy wall of sublimely funereal drone that barely changes throughout. Deeply chilling and instantly relaxing -- a great combination. And when Kang finally comes in and starts riding a deep dirge melody, it sounds so good that it reminds me of all the Led Zep I've been listening to lately. Then, late in the piece, Denio starts singing some utterly haunting and beautiful quasi-operatic ghosts-in-church kind of stuff, and damn. That's what they call "taking it to the next level." - Larry "Fuzz-O" Dolman

(Vital Weekly No. 520) The only time Amy Denio was reviewed in Vital Weekly was a long time ago, with her 'Greatest Hits' CD (see Vital Weekly 189) that was already devoted to her long standing career, but I must admit I missed out on both that CD as-well as many things from her past. Here she plays one track, forty-five minutes, and it's subtitled 'music for Yoko Murao's dance piece'. Denio plays accordion and voice and gets help on viola by Eyvind Kang. But he comes in way when things are well under their way. This piece is a beautifully enveloping piece of drone music, in which the solitary plucking of the viola comes in rather gently and elegantly. Most of the time it seems nothing much changes here, but that's only deception. Things move like a glacier mass, slowly but steadily. Quite a beauty this one. - Frans de Waard

(Aiding & Abetting No. 274) Music for a modern dance piece. Denio plays accordion and sings (well, you know) and Eyvind Kang adds some solid texture with a cello. This piece is exceptionally slow-moving, but it does sound very cool. Kinda like the story about frogs: If you place them in cold water and turn up the heat, they never figure out they're boiling. Let this one build and see what happens. - Jon Worley

(Foxy Digitalis) Seattle based multi-instrumentalist Amy Denio has managed to create one of the most vivid, most alluring, most captivating drone albums I have heard in a very long time. "Tasogare" (Twilight) initially debuted 5 years ago as a the sound component to a Yoko Murao dance piece performed out of doors at sunset using natural light (or the fading of) as the setting. While recognizing the importance of environment, and even finding nature, in the performance is not too difficult, it is a little more of a challenge to visualize the movement that would accompany the piece. That said it does make for intense listening. There is little doubt that the album would have been a perfect if it only consisted of Denio's massive accordion chord drones, vocal workouts, and noise exploration; which accounts for much of the disc's 45 minutes. As the piece progresses, however, Denio teams with Eyvind Kang (viola & effects) and shifts the focus entirely. His addition serves to enhance an already beautiful musical experience and as a bonus treats the listener to the wondrous fruits of inspired collaboration. Search this one out; it'll be worth the effort. - Chris Jacques

(Dead Angel No. 6) This is actually Amy Denio (accordion, vocals) and Eyvind Kang (viola) collaborating on one long (45 minutes) track, which was originally recorded for a dance piece by Yoko Murao. Don't be fooled by the presence of the accordion; this is hardly polka music. Rather, it's highly drone-intensive, with both instruments apparently processed so they are not easily recognizable. As the piece progresses, the harmonic overtones of the overlapping drones shift and creep steadily up the tonal scale, growing brighter; meanwhile, as one instrument drones, the other creates subtle counterpoints that keep the drone from becoming too monochromatic. At times only one instrument predominates, but most of the time they work in tandem. Over time, the interplay (and what's being played) becomes gradually more complex, and the tonal palette shifts gradually, reaching a peak somewhere past the thirty-minute mark, at which point everything begins to (slowly) wind down. Given the length of the piece, it's not surprising that everything happens at a glacial pace, and much of the time the shifts in tone take place so gradually that they're difficult to easily detect unless you're paying close attention. With only two instruments at their disposal and a highly minimalist approach, there's nevertheless a surprising amount of action going on beneath the brooding drone. I don't know that Denio has delved deeply into the drone mantra territory before, but she and Kang sure have it down to a mysterious science here.... - RKF

(Paris Transatlantic) This is the soundtrack to a dance piece by Japanese choreographer Yoko Murao, and finds Denio (on accordion and voice) flanked by the excellent Eyvind Kang on viola. It all starts with a fascinating drone, an impenetrable dark cloud hovering around apparent tranquillity. The instrumental timbres instantly fuse into one, harmonics coalescing into a static tapestry until we reach Niblock-like pitch contiguities, though I'm also reminded of shades typical of Christoph Heemann and Andrew Chalk's Mirror. About 11 minutes in, intricate figures start dancing and intersecting as if played by an unknown instrument, soon to be overwhelmed by additional doses of incessant accordion-and-viola repetitions. The first hint of rhythm, which involuntarily rips a page out of Stephen Scott's book, appears briefly, only to be submerged again in an ocean of bliss. As in the best minimalism, one never knows if what's heard is real or just a product of the imagination. A sort of bionic hornpipe appears halfway through, introducing a dramatic call-and-response passage of superimposed chanting, before a series of choked seagull-like string shrieks raises the anguish level quite effectively. Elements of Middle Eastern/Arab phrasing are elicited by Kang, yet everything is soon redirected towards motionlessness, as Denio's vocals take center stage with melodies crossing Native American and Asian influences. Instrumental plucks, raps and noise push the music towards its natural exhaustion, the tension relenting frame by frame as the sonic organism resolves to a composed recollection of all its parts and derivations. A superb piece of work by two fine artists. - Massimo Ricci

(Ampersand Etcetera) A single 45 minute track of Denio on accordion and Eyvind Kang on viola, for a dancework. And what a magnificent track it is. The accordion is used as a drone base, emerging slowly out of the silence, pulsing and complex overtones, inside there are chords, real or imagined. At times the accordion pulses, the viola scrapes whistling notes, later swooping and becoming more complex. This is a rich and majestic work, that is beautifully balanced, ending with a wind-down that softens the drone and a tapping percussive. Added to this is a wonderful section of Denio’s vocals, which are chanting, Dead Can Dance like ethereal additions. Looking at the web, Denio has been recording since the 80s – this would make anyone start a desperate search for more. - Jeremy Keens

(Broken Face) Let’s end this with the ocean-deep funeral drone of Amy Denio’s Tasogare. If I am not mistaken this is all constructed from accordion and voice (besides the occasional guest appearance from Eyvind Kang on viola). This 45 minutes long one-track album sounds like music for the beginning or end of a world, and no matter how dramatic such a statment may sound it's difficult to find any more suitable words. Finely polished and achingly frosty drones stuck in a never-ending loop of atmospheric beauty. Essential. - Mats Gustafsson

(Downtown Music Gallery) Featuring Amy Denio on accordion and voice with Eyvind Kang on viola. This music was composed by Amy Denio for a dance piece by Yoko Murao. This disc was released in 2005, but discovered by us here at DMG this month (2/08). It consists of one 45-minute work that features a great, slow moving, shimmering cosmic drone. The accordion and viola hum together magically, bathing us in slow waves of dreamy, bliss-filled and peaceful psychedelic colors. You can zero in on slowly evolving texture of each of the layers or just drift on the warm waves. Fans of early Terry Riley, Charlemagne Palestine or even The Necks, should find interest in this little known gem. - BLG

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